Scenic America convened a symposium at the National Press Club on October 22, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Highway Beautification Act. The Symposium was part of a 3-day Scenic50 Conference honoring the five decades since the White House Conference on Natural Beauty and the passage of the Highway Beautification Act.
Symposium speakers addressed the topics in Scenic America’s white paper Taking the Long View: A Proposal for Realizing America the Beautiful, released in draft form at the symposium and available here as a PDF download.
Videos of each presentation are available below. Click on a title or a photo to watch.
The symposium began with a video of Henry L. Diamond, interviewed in August 2015, sharing his recollections of serving as executive director of the 1965 White House Conference on Natural Beauty. Mr. Diamond took on the assignment at the request of conference chairman Laurance Rockefeller.
Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts was the day’s featured speaker. She spoke of the lasting legacy of Lady Bird Johnson on the nation’s scenic evironment and on the capital city in particular. Unfortunately our cameras only captured the last few minutes of Cokie’s speech but her call to action is inspiring!
Margaret Lloyd and Bill Brinton speak about the challenges to preserving and protecting the scenic beauty of America’s roadsides. Topics include outdoor advertising control, tree-cutting, and programs to encourage roadside landscaping and the planting of native trees, flowers and plants.
Kathryn Welch Howe and Adrian Benepe discuss how more Americans than ever are utilizing parks and open spaces, while at the same time these public assets face critical shortages of funding and support. Topics include the adaptive reuse of public spaces and the economic and public health benefits of parks and open spaces.
Hal Kassoff and Rob Draper talk about the status of the National Scenic Byways Program and of the economic importance of byways to communities along the road. The role of gateway roads to America’s National Parks and other great public spaces is also addressed.
Martha Fuller Clark and Meg Maguire speak about the importance of preserving and promoting the unique character of our country’s cities, towns and neighborhoods. Poor planning and private interests threaten to erode and homogenize community character while studies show that cities and towns that promote uniqueness are thriving.
Mary Tracy and Sharee Williamson address one of the most common sources of visual blight in America: the tangles of wires that drape over so many streets and the high-voltage transmission lines that cut large swaths through so much countryside. New technologies and efforts to minimize and mitigate the impacts of these wires are discussed.
Dave Meslin of Scenic Toronto talks about the ways in which citizens are discouraged from participating in the public processes that determine how our visual environment looks and what steps the scenic conservation movement can take to engage the citizenry and affect positive change.
Ryke Longest provides a thoughtful and engaging overiew of the symposium’s presentations, summarizing the day’s key lessons and providing inspiration and momentum for the scenic conservation movement going forward.