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California Scenic Conservation Initiative

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Through the Packard Foundation's Conserving California Landscapes Initiative, Scenic America and Scenic California built on local efforts to improve Highway 99 by helping communities look at the corridor and develop scenic conservation plans that preserve and enhance their unique beauty and distinctive character.

Highway 99, from Los Angeles to Sacramento, runs through California's Great Central Valley. The vast Central Valley is well known for scenic agricultural landscapes and small, vibrant urban communities. However California's rapidly growing population is pushing development into the Valley, threatening the region's scenic, rural, and cultural resources. As a result, Highway 99 is quickly becoming another suburban highway littered with billboards, junkyards, housing developments, and strip malls.

"In many ways, we've been treating Highway 99 as a sort of back door to our communities," said John Wilbanks of RRM Design Group which is helping the cities of Turlock and Fresno develop plans to improve the appearance of Highway 99. "It's high time we stop thinking of the all important road as a back alley and develop pride in Highway 99 as the [Central] Valley's Main Street."

To identify and prioritize scenic conservation opportunities along Highway 99 Scenic California Project Manager Sheila Brady developed an extensive scenic resources inventory and Geographic Information System GIS) map database for the 250-mile long corridor.  Among the problems gleaned from Scenic California's survey were:
  • Poor air quality that prohibits motorists from seeing the Sierra Nevada or Diablo ranges;
  • Little screening to shield views of junkyards, strip malls, and other commercial development;
  • Large numbers of billboards and giant on-premise signs;
  • Wireless telecommunications tower proliferation;
  • Excess amounts of litter;
  • Inadequate roadside landscaping;
  • Unimaginative overpasses, safety barriers, and exits;
  • Decaying historic structures;
  • and Few community identifiers or gateways.
For more general information on the Highway 99 corridor please visit,