MIAMI, Okla.—It’s been almost a century since the birth of Route 66 in the United States. The road revolutionized American travel with a brand new highway stretching over the course of 2,448 miles.
It winded from Chicago connected St. Louis to Oklahoma City. But zoomed in even closer to home, the highway boosted tourism for Ottawa County, Oklahoma.
In 1928, just two years after the birth of the Mother Road, the Northeast Oklahoma community welcomed travelers from all across the nation for the annual Route 66 auto show — a long-lived tradition still prevalent nationwide today.
Ottawa County holds close its rich history surrounding America’s Main Street from Coleman Theatre to Waylan’s Ku Ku Burger — history that county commissioner Russell Earls is working to preserve.
One of the first projects? The Route 66 Ribbon Road, a 9-foot-wide highway still being traveled today. And although the road still sees its fair share of traffic, it is the only piece of Ribbon Road left in the nation.
“If we don’t try to preserve it and fix it back up, it is going to continue to deteriorate to the point where it will basically be gone one day,” said Earls.
Revitalization efforts are still in early stages, with the county planning a public meeting on March 10. A partnership with Miami Parks and Recreation could mean new outdoor activities for the Northeast Oklahoma community.
With ideas circling around a trail connecting Riverview Park in Miami, across the Neosho River, all the way to the historic highway.
“We want to incorporate all of that together and have a hiking and biking experience along the Route 66 Ribbon Road,” said Earls.
So just as the song goes,
“Now you through St. Louis,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.”
And in that in the stretch from Joplin to the beautiful OKC, Earls hopes that revitalization efforts encourage people to stop in Ottawa County’s cozy corner of Northeast Oklahoma and stay a while.
“We know that once its refurbished and where its a little more comfortable to travel on, and we are able to get the world out that people are going to be coming to it a lot more and bring in a lot of tourism money for our cities and the county.”