2018 City Beautiful Essay Contest

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Scenic Michigan and Keep Michigan Beautiful are pleased to announce the launch of our City Beautiful Essay Contest.  Each year, Scenic Michigan and Keep Michigan Beautiful plan to reach out to high school students around the state with the question “Does the appearance of your city matter?”.  We want to hear your stories and insights about how community design, beautification efforts, and scenic beauty impact your quality of life and the health of your community. This year we will present two $500 awards for the best essays we receive on this topic.

This essay contest is open to any high school student who is currently a senior or junior and attending a private or public school in Flint or Cheboygan, Michigan during the 2017-2018 school year. Essays must be received by Friday, May 18th, 2018 by 5pm.

Download essay contest rules and submission guidelines by clicking here.

Scenic Michigan Hires New Executive Director

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Erica Briggs

Scenic Michigan’s board is excited to announce that Erica Briggs has been hired to serve as Scenic Michigan’s new Executive Director. Briggs comes to Scenic Michigan with an extensive background in nonprofit management, transportation and land use policy, communications, legislative affairs, and policy analysis.

“I am thrilled to be working on Scenic Michigan’s important mission to preserve, protect, and enhance Michigan’s scenic resources,” Briggs said. “Michigan is a beautiful state and preserving and enhancing these assets is critical to our state’s economy and ensuring a high quality of life for current and future residents.”

Briggs is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Michigan State University and most recently served as a Program Manager at the Clean Energy Coalition in Ann Arbor. She serves on the Ann Arbor Planning Commission and currently chairs the board of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition.

Briggs lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, two sons, and two cats. She loves exploring scenic Michigan and enjoys biking, running, and camping.

President’s Message—Good News, Bad News

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The good news is that with the help of a major donor, we are completing a Michigan scenic road inventory, the first of its kind. These are roads that have already been designated scenic by some state or local agency. The work is being done by the Land Information Access Association (LIAA). It will help us target specific communities for our help in keeping designated scenic roads scenic. This targeting will help us make more efficient use of our resources. A next step will be to help identify roads that should be designated scenic, and identify ways to keep them scenic, free from the distraction and ugliness of billboards and other forms of roadside blight. A more detailed description of the project can be found elsewhere in this newsletter.

The bad news is that our longtime executive director Abby Dart has decided to retire in early 2018. We have begun the process to replace her with someone who will work with Abby to make a smooth transition in the day-to-day leadership. Those of you who know Abby know she will be sorely missed. If you know someone who should be considered to fill her position, please let me know. Might it be one of you?

City of Livonia receives Scenic Hero Award

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Award given to those who make a lasting contribution to preservation of scenic character

Each year, Scenic Michigan presents the Scenic Hero Award to individuals or organizations that make a significant and lasting contribution to preserving, protecting, and enhancing the scenic character of Michigan’s roads and communities. This year, Scenic Michigan is pleased to present our Scenic Hero Award to the City of Livonia and city attorney Mike Fisher for leading an outstanding and successful effort to prevent construction/addition of electronic/digital billboards in the City of Livonia—thus helping to prevent blight, driver distraction, and deterioration of the scenic qualities of Livonia.

The City of Livonia—with the leadership of Mike Fisher—have set an example for cities throughout Michigan who seek to improve both their visual appearance and quality of life for their residents. Scenic Michigan congratulates these scenic heroes for a job well done!

What’s in Your Sign Ordinance?

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Excerpt reprinted with permission from, “What’s In Your Sign Ordinance?”, which appeared in the November 2016 issue of Township Focus magazine, from the Michigan Townships Association.

Signs are protected by the constitutional right to free speech because they express a message—even if that message is only the time and date of an event. Most townships and municipalities in general have taken the right to free speech to mean that one message can’t be treated less favorably than another, regardless of the religious, political or other sentiment it conveys. Some violations are obvious—if your sign ordinance does not allow religious signs or bans certain political signs, that’s a clear First Amendment violation.

But last year, a U.S. Supreme Court decision took the concept of “content neutrality” much further. The crux of the decision is this: If you must read a sign in order to determine if it’s permitted, there is a serious question of whether your sign ordinance is not content-neutral. That means if your township has different regulations for real estate, political or garage sale signs, you could be in violation.

The decision In Gilbert, Ariz., a small church that met in elementary schools and other public buildings used temporary signs to advertise its services. The town’s sign ordinance did not allow outdoor signs without a permit but made an exception for 23 different types of signs. One of these types was temporary directional signs. The ordinance required that temporary directional signs only be displayed for certain amounts of time before and after an event and must include the date of an event. Church members were responsible for making sure the signs were posted on Saturday and then taken down on Sunday afternoon. However, when the church failed to take approved an ordinance that attempts to strike the difficult balance of preventing sign clutter while also regulating solely by size, location and physical characteristics

It’s new territory for the township—and for local governments throughout Michigan and the United States. Regulating signage is an important job for township planning and zoning officials, as well as the township board. Signs don’t just impact your township’s appearance—they can also affect safety. It’s up to your township to make sure signs are at a proper setback from the road and don’t distract drivers.

But because of the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision—Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, Ariz.—virtually every township must now reconsider how it accomplishes this job. A group of attorneys is currently working to create a model ordinance or guidelines for municipalities—including MTA Legal Counsel Catherine Kaufman, attorney at Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber & Kaufman, PC. The group hopes to release some kind of guidance by the end of the year. Until then, townships should take another look at their sign ordinance and ask for assistance from their attorney. “It’s important for townships to understand that they need to look at their sign regulations and try to identify if they are content neutral,” Kaufman said. “They should ask for assistance from their township attorney or from a municipal attorney. It’s likely they’re going to need some changes.” Keeping your township beautiful

Nonprofit organization Scenic Michigan has long advocated for the regulation of signs as a way to preserve a community’s appearance and character. Larry Keisling, a Scenic Michigan board member and former planning director for the City of Troy, believes that while signs are necessary, too many of them in one small area make a community look cluttered, whether it’s a downtown or a wooded countryside. If sign sizes and setbacks aren’t regulated, they can put drivers and pedestrians alike at risk. At the same time, businesses, nonprofits and anyone with an event to advertise count on signs to let the public know about their event or product. Signs are crucial in political campaigns. And some homeowners just like to place signs in their yard to convey a general message. Most townships have some kind of sign ordinance, which is generally done through the township’s zoning, though it’s also possible to regulate by police power ordinance. The goal in most cases is to allow people, businesses and organizations to advertise and exercise their right to free speech while also keeping their township from being covered in out-of-control signage. Most ordinances control signs by setting limits on their size, height, location and setback from the road. While this sounds simple, sign ordinances tend to be complicated. It’s a common practice to categorize temporary signs by their content and then regulate them differently.

What’s in your sign ordinance? “It’s important for townships to understand that they need to look at their sign regulations and try to identify if they are content neutral. It’s likely they’re going to need some changes.” —MTA Legal Counsel Catherine Kaufman, Attorney, Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber & Kaufman, PC

Scenic Michigan to work with Land Information Access Association to create scenic road map

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Scenic Michigan is a coalition of grassroots organizations, elected officials, and interested citizens working to preserve and enhance the scenic quality of Michigan’s roadways. One tool Scenic Michigan has historically supported is the designation of “scenic roads.”

However, despite the common application of this tool throughout the state, it remains unclear how roads receive such a designation, how many have received it, and where all of the roads are located. In response to a discussion with Scenic Michigan board member Jim Lagowski, the Land Information Access Association proposes to help clarify scenic road designations in Michigan. This proposal is based on the tasks specified in our conversation with Mr. Lagowski and the experience of LIAA staff.

We expect geographic information system (GIS) specialist Paul Riess will be LIAA’s prime professional engaged in the successful completion of this research and mapping effort. A geographer and cartographer, Paul has more than 20 years of experience in developing and managing spatial databases, designing GIS systems, and teaching GIS operations. He has extensive experience in the development of geographic data and mapping for city, township, and county master plans, recreation plans, corridor plans and natural resource management plans. A biogeographer, he holds a B.S. in Biology and Geography and an M.S. in Biology from Andrews University as well as an M.A. in Geography from Western Michigan University.

LIAA will research and aggregate all the different scenic road designations that currently exist in Michigan. Some initial research has found that there are a number of national, state and local roadway designations throughout Michigan. LIAA staff will work to get GIS data for each road designation, and research the process and criteria for the different designations.

Once the data is collected, LIAA will develop a comprehensive map of all the designated scenic roads in Michigan. The final map will be available in both a print and digital version.

Share Your Scenic City Photo Contest

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Scenic Michigan is holding a photo contest! Submit a picture of your attractive community on Scenic Michigan’s Facebook page or email to info@scenicmichigan.org by April 15, 2017. Please provide a brief description of the location and why you chose it. Look for locations that highlight the beauty or scenic character of your community the winning entrant will receive a copy of the beautiful pictorial “The Northwest Shore: Fine Art Photography of Michigan’s Northwest Lower Peninsula Shoreline.”

Spring 2016 Newsletter

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Jim Lagowski

Jim Lagowski

President’s Message

In recent months, the Scenic Michigan Board of Directors and executive director have been working on a complete update of our strategic plan. This will guide our efforts for the next three to five years. A professional is helping facilitate and focus our planning efforts. While more needs to be done, and given our limited resources, it is already clear we need to concentrate on:

  • Long-term financial stability
  • Being a catalyst to encourage others who share our values
  • Developing strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations
  • In another part of this newsletter, you will learn how you can support us with a tax-free donation from your IRA.

Scenic Michigan Seeks New Board Members

Join our dynamic board and help preserve our scenic state

We are seeking several new board members to broaden our geographic coverage and professional strengths. If you share our values and have a passion for preserving and protecting Michigan’s scenic resources, please call us at 231-881-6266 or e-mail at info@scenicmichigan.org. Thank you for thinking about and supporting us.

City of Livonia Billboard Ban Challenged

Michael Fisher, Livonia Assistant City Attorney

Michael Fisher, Livonia Assistant City Attorney

Shortly after the City of Livonia was formed back in 1950, the City fathers drafted the city’s first zoning ordinance. Among other things, that original ordinance contained an outright ban on billboards, along with a grandfather clause protecting billboards already in existence. The last of those billboards came down in 1986, and Livonia has been billboard-free ever since. Perhaps needless to say, this is very unusual in the Detroit Metropolitan area: a 36-square-mile billboard-free zone crossed by two busy interstate highways—I-96 and I-275—and located just a couple of miles from the western boundary of the city of Detroit. Indeed, in the roughly two-mile wide zone outside Livonia’s borders, there are over 50 billboards!

While many motorists are no doubt glad for the brief respite they get while driving through Livonia, to the purveyors of billboards, a billboard-free zone is an anomaly subject to attack under a variety of legal theories. In 2001, a New York company called Nichols & Vann Media Group, LLC sued Livonia in the Wayne County Circuit Court, charging that the city’s billboard ban violated everything from the First Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Edward Thomas dismissed the suit in a very thoughtful 16-page opinion. The city was awarded the 2002 Scenic Michigan Award, and when Nichols & Vann filed its claim of appeal, Scenic Michigan offered to participate in the case by means of an amicus (sometimes called “friend of the court”) brief.

Fortunately, Nichols & Vann withdrew its appeal, and Livonia was left alone to enjoy its billboard-free existence. Until 2013, that is. That’s when International Outdoor, Inc., a Michigan billboard purveyor, began its challenge to the city’s billboard ban. International Outdoor began its challenge before the Livonia Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Its representatives argued that billboards (or their proposed billboards, anyhow) were necessary for local businesses, even though they couldn’t find a single local business to say so. In fact, the only business to address the matter argued that Livonia is a “city of quality” partly because it has no billboards.

Thwarted by the ZBA, International Outdoor filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court, arguing that billboards are, in effect, mandatory—communities are powerless to say no to the billboard people. Nichols & Vann had made essentially the same exclusionary zoning arguments over a decade earlier, and Judge Kathleen Macdonald, like Judge Thomas before her, upheld Livonia’s ordinance. So International Outdoor appealed to the Court of Appeals. Appellate briefing is now complete, including an amicus brief filed jointly by Scenic Michigan and the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Townships Association, the Public Corporations Section of the State Bar of Michigan, and Scenic America, and the parties are awaiting a schedule for oral argument.

Some nonparties are apparently waiting, too; rumor has it that Lamar Advertising is now scouting sites in Livonia.

New Tax Laws Benefit Nonprofit Organizations

Here’s how you can help Scenic Michigan

Last year, Congress and the IRS approved rules that let you donate tax-free funds directly from your IRA to any 501(c)(3) charity like Scenic Michigan. We hope you will consider this new tool to help support us.

Checks can be sent directly to Scenic Michigan or to our endowment fund c/o the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation: 616 Petoskey St., Suite 203, Petoskey, MI 49770.

Your accountant/CPA/tax attorney can give you details if needed.

Pure Michigan Byways Deserve Recognition

MDOT-managed program protects scenic highways and should be expanded

Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route

Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route

There are many benefits for a road that applies for and receives a Scenic Byway designation. These include preservation and economic, community, and educational benefits—all of which enhance the unique character of a particular region.

One important preservation benefit is the public recognition of the Pure Michigan Byway designation, which recognizes that the stretch of highway has unique scenic, historic, or recreational resources worthy of identification and preservation. An important aspect of preservation is to provide the community with the knowledge and background to encourage appropriate growth and management of the byway.

The economic benefits of a byway designation are numerous. The community can market the byway and the local attractions to encourage both tourism and enhance local businesses along the route. Potential for job growth and tourism-related development is also enhanced.

Part of the application process for the Pure Michigan Byway designation requires that the community engage in strategic planning and visioning. This visioning relates to the both the background of the stretch of highway and the justification for the designation, which requires the partnership of communities that enjoy access to the proposed byway.

Finally, a key part of the Pure Michigan Byway application process involves educating the community on the resources, information, and benefits of a byway designation. The lessons learned from the process are a great asset to any community who seeks to preserve and protect their scenic resources.

Scenic Michigan welcomes your input for additional byway designations. There are many scenic stretches of highways that would benefit both in terms of protection of scenic resources and an increase in tourism. A few that are worthy of mention include Highway 131 from Cadillac to Grand Rapids, Highway 10 from Sanford Lake, Highway 2 along the northern shore of Lake Michigan in the eastern Upper Peninsula, and the Southwest Michigan area near Saugatuck.

Billboard Advisory Council Submits Recommendation

Recommendations of the Michigan Billboard Advisory Council, December 4, 2015

billboardsWith the passage of PA 2 of 2014, the Michigan Billboard Advisory Council was created.  The Council was charged with advising the Michigan Department of Transportation and the State Transportation Commission regarding voluntary agreements entered into under section 18b(1) of the Highway Advertising Act, lighting and any other general policy for the effective control of outdoor advertising.

Director Steudle appointed the following members in accordance with Section 252.318c:

  • Sen. Tom Casperson, Chair, Senate Transportation Committee
  • Rep. Peter Pettalia, Chair, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
  • Jerrold Jung, Chair, a representative of the Transportation Commission
  • Abby Dart, Scenic Michigan, a representative of the conservation community
  • Bill Jackson, a representative of the outdoor advertising industry
  • Kelly Wolgamott, Director of Marketing, MEDC, a representative of the tourism industry or a trade group that represents statewide tourism interests
  • Chris Graff, Hank Graff Chevrolet, a representative of the general public. Shall be a private sector lessee of billboard space whose business is located in this state
  • Ken Griffin, Director of Marketing, BOYNE, a sign owner that resides in the state

The council received staff support from Matt DeLong, Administrator of MDOT’s Development Services Division, Melissa Staffeld, Highway Advertising Specialist for MDOT and Phil Browne, Deputy Commission Advisor and Legislative Liaison, MDOT.

The council convened multiple meetings, engaging in extensive roundtable discussions regarding the current state of outdoor advertising and how it relates to the Department, the outdoor advertising industry, the advertisers and the motoring public. The Council was treated to presentations on a variety of topics including the current regulatory and statutory environment, industry trends, lighting, festival advertising, special challenges in underserved areas such as the Upper Peninsula, LOGO and TODS signage, Pure Michigan, and Scenic Routes. We would like to extend a special thank you to Mark Sherwood from Lamar Outdoor, Jerry Dobek from Northwestern Michigan College, and Mark Bott from MDOT for coming in to provide some of these presentations.

The Council makes the following recommendations to the Michigan Department of Transportation and the State Transportation Commission:

  1. The Department should develop a voluntary agreement regarding special event signs defined as a temporary advertising device not larger than 32 square feet in area erected for the purpose of notifying the public of noncommercial community events, including but not limited to fairs, centennials, festivals and celebrations open to the general public and sponsored or approved by a city, village, township, county, school or the state and listed on the Pure Michigan website so that they may be placed on private property with the owner’s consent no more than 30 days prior to the event and must be removed no later than 24 hours after the event. In developing this voluntary agreement, the Department should look at policies in other states.
  2. The Department should develop a voluntary agreement whereby billboard companies could be encouraged to best use technology where applicable to minimize the impact of lighting on the surrounding environment.
  3. The Department should develop recommendations whereby opportunities for signage in rural or scenic areas can be offered that would include a more rustic feel and be smaller than traditional billboards and fit with the fabric of the community in which they are placed. This agreement should be developed with stakeholder involvement.
  4. The Department and the State Transportation Commission should engage the legislature to review and revise the fee structure for outdoor advertising with accountability and transparency so that the administration of the Act, including but not limited to necessary information technology upgrades and enforcement actions are covered by the fees assessed under the Act.
  5. As the balance between natural beauty and outdoor advertising needs is an important facet of the laws and policies regarding outdoor advertising, continuation of dialogue on how to preserve existing natural beauty areas should continue.
  6. The Department should reconstitute a version of this Council to continue to develop the recommendations above for a duration not to exceed six months from the time of organization of a reconstituted Council.

Spring 2015 Newsletter

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Jim Lagowski

Jim Lagowski

President’s Message

Spring is the ultimate bringer of change… snow melts, flowers bloom, trees bud, and people feel a sense of renewal. This year spring represents change for Scenic Michigan as well. You may have noticed our new Scenic Michigan logo! Thanks to very generous major donor support, we have contracted with the esteemed Public Sector Consultants for a redesign of our logo, letterhead and website. We are thrilled with our new look and can’t wait to showcase these products this spring with a complimentary social media campaign. Look for Scenic Michigan on Facebook and Twitter @Scenic Michigan.

We are very excited about these changes as well as our new office in Ann Arbor at 1100 North Main in historic Kerrytown. We are fortunate to be located in the New Center which houses not-for-profit organizations like Scenic Michigan. Very economical and strategically important as we work to build relationships with south-southeast Michigan, an important step in our long term survival and effectiveness. Our business office will remain for now in Petoskey. Say hello to our Executive Director Abby Dart when you are in Ann Arbor.

This location shift in day-to-day operations has already paid dividends, with Downriver (from Detroit) Mayors of 18 communities, a follow up to a presentation by Abby and longtime Board member Pam Frucci from Grosse Ile. We are working with Detroit officials on sign issues in that community. This Spring, we hope to be working with the 8 Mile Rd. Association, a consortium of 14 communities along the 8 Mile Rd. corridor from Lake St. Clair to Livonia. In the meantime distribution of our award winning Michigan Sign Guidebook continues.  If you or any one in your community would like a CD of this 200-plus-page document just ask.

Scenic Michigan’s 10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival

This year the highlight of the event is a raffle of a cruise for two on the luxurious Haimark line to one of their 9 day itineraries to North, Central or South America! (air, port taxes not included. Subject to availability)

This year, the highlight of the event is a raffle of a cruise for two on the luxurious Haimark line to one of their nine-day itineraries to North, Central, or South America! (air, port taxes not included. Subject to availability)

This event is the major fundraiser for Scenic Michigan

Please join Scenic Michigan on Saturday, June 27, 2015, 4 to 7 P.M. for the 10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival on the bay in beautiful Harbor Springs. The Festival features wine tastings from around the world, delectable appetizers from area restaurants and live music from the John Driscoll Ensemble. A highlight of the festival is the raffle which includes the chance to win one of several prizes ranging from gift baskets of wine and food to wine related packages. Tickets in advance are $20 and $30 at the door. Admission includes 2 tastings, a complimentary wine glass and complimentary food. Additional wine tasting tickets are $2 each or 6 for $10 or 12 for $20.

New this year is a $50 VIP pass which includes unlimited tastings and a signed poster by this year’s esteemed area artist Margaret Tvedten. In addition, VIP guests will have the opportunity to consult with special guest wine sommelier Tony Zanotti. Tickets will be available online beginning April 1, 2015 at www.waterfrontwine.org and at area venues. VIP passes are available only online and are limited in quantity.

Check out the Waterfront Wine Festival on Facebook to see posters from previous years and to keep updated on all the Festival news!

Scenic Michigan to Present Cass Tech High School Senior with Scholarship

Scenic Michigan will be awarding the first annual Scenic Michigan $1,000 College Scholarship to a Cass Tech High School Senior who writes the winning essay on the topic of “Why community appearance is good for Detroit.”  The deadline for submission was April 1, 2015 and the award will be presented at the annual Cass Tech Scholarship event. One senior will be selected by the Scenic Michigan Board on the strength of his/her essay and the scholarship check will be presented by Executive Director Abby Dart and Board Members.

Cass Tech High School

Cass Tech High School

Scenic Michigan selected Cass Tech to highlight the Scenic Michigan’s work with the City of Detroit as a partner with community leaders who seek to revitalize and beautify the city.  Executive Director Dart commented that “It is so important for students, who are the future residents and leaders of Detroit, to see how scenic beauty plays a critical role in creating great cities.”  Cass Tech Guidance Counselor Walter Stevenson, Jr. thanked Scenic Michigan and noted “by allowing our students to compete for your generous scholarship award, you have opened yet another door of opportunity to our Technicians for the possibility of a more successful college experience!”

Scenic Michigan seeks to expand the scholarship program to additional schools in Southeast Michigan as funding becomes available.  If you are interested in donating earmarked funds for the scholarship program, please contact Abby Dart at info@scenicmichigan.org.

Detroit City Council May Allow Billboards in Downtown Business District

Change of zoning ordinance would reverse longtime prohibition against billboards

Possible billboard blight on the historic Detroit Guardian building

Possible billboard blight on the historic Detroit Guardian building

The Detroit City Council is considering amending its zoning ordinance to permit billboards, including digital billboards in the downtown business district.  Prohibited for over twenty years due to driver distraction and aesthetic concerns, new proposals from the Outdoor Advertising Industry have spurred the Council and Planning Commission to reconsider the regulations.

The proposal is still under review but it appears that historic buildings are not protected from digital displays and the area under consideration includes an area with several historic districts.  Scenic Michigan Board Member Larry Keisling and Executive Director Abby Dart appeared before the City of Detroit Planning Commission in February to share information and concerns about digital billboard.  Keisling, the former Planner for the City of Detroit, explained the issues regarding distraction and the intrusion into downtown dwellers, where last count indicated that over 6000 residents live in downtown Detroit.

Stay tuned for further updates as the proposal is discussed and debated by city officials.

 2015 is the 50th Anniversary of the HBA … Not a Reason to Celebrate!

Pamela Frucci

Pamela Frucci

The Highway Beautification Act signed into law in 1965 was initiated by Lady Bird Johnson. She had driven through Stowe Valley, Vermont, known for its ski resorts, and noted there were no billboards to spoil the snowy countryside. Her thoughts turned to having the whole country not billboard free but at least fewer in number and not so big and blaring. She convinced her husband President Lyndon Johnson that this country needed a strong billboard law limiting the number of billboards to only 5–6 per mile and size to no larger than 300 square feet. With President Johnson’s prodding, Congress passed the HBA.

Her proposal backfired when the Outdoor Advertising Association of America was called upon to write the rules of the act! The word from Congress was “They know something about billboards.” The OAA of America loves the Highway Beautification Act! They wrote the rules that billboards could be up to 212 per mile (two-sided) and up to 48,000 square feet (so that giant tire on I-94 would be legal). Back in Lady Bird Johnson’s time there were 300,000 billboards. Now there are 500,000!

While in Vermont in 1987, I talked to Tony Ciaraldi, the ski resort owner from Stowe Valley who, along with his sons, chainsawed all the—then—wooden billboards. Resort owners ended up advertising their resorts by word-of-mouth. It was Stowe Valley free of commercial billboards that attracted the attention of Lady Bird Johnson.

If you really want to get mad about how the billboard industry got away with covering America the Beautiful with billboards, read the article by Dr. Charles F. Floyd, professor and chair of the Dept. of Real Estate and Legal Studies at the University of Georgia in 1979 entitled “Billboard Control Under the Highway Beautification Act—A Failure of Land Use Controls.”

My first brush with billboards was in 1976, 63 years after reading an amazing story of how in the year 1913 the now State of Hawaii worked 14 years to finally remove the last billboard in their territory. I was inspired by how a group of bustled ladies in the organization Outdoor Circle campaigned to challenge the proliferation of commercial signs that they said were “ruining the health and beauty of Hawaii.” Up until then the billboard companies were unchallenged, but Outdoor Circle changed that!

In 1913 Outdoor Circle took over the entire issue of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser in Honolulu and filled it with anti-billboard messages. Children wrote essays on the detriment of billboards and photos of the worst billboards were printed in the newspaper. (I have a copy of that 1913 newspaper!) The women got a red rubber stamp with large letters that read “anti billboards” and stamped their envelopes, checks receipts, and letter heads. They got public sentiment on their side and in 1927 the last billboard came down. The then territorial governor signed legislation banning billboards. Today only three other states that are known for their scenic beauty—Alaska, Maine, and Vermont—ban billboards.

Scenic Michigan has been working since 1989 to preserve Michigan’s scenic beauty. Why? We embrace noted naturalist John Muir’s theory: “People need beauty as well as bread.” We won’t be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act or Michigan’s version of the act. Both laws don’t work! What’s beautiful about rows of commercial billboards along our highways?

Pamela A. Frucci (member since 1989)
Scenic Michigan Board of Directors