The Cascade Loop, which includes Whidbey Scenic Isle Way, recently received designation as a National Scenic Byway.
It was a decade-long effort to receive that recognition, according to Annette Pitts, executive director for the Cascade Loop Association.
The association is a nonprofit formed in 1978. The Cascade Loop is a 440-mile route that travels through Whidbey, Everett, Leavenworth, Wenatchee, Winthrop and Burlington, among other destinations.
Pitts’ predecessor had written a grant several years ago to fund a corridor management plan, which is a requirement needed to apply for federal designation.
“When we first started down this road, we were really excited about the idea of having more visibility nationally and internationally,” Pitts said.
One of the benefits of the process of receiving the designation has been that stakeholders such as local governments, chambers of commerce and residents worked together and were involved.
“Hopefully this new designation will help us as we look to secure federal funding moving forward,” she said, adding that the association is looking to support the byway communities it has worked closely with.
The latest omnibus spending package introduced by Congress gives $16 million to the National Scenic Byways Program.
Pitts said part of the fun of the Cascade Loop is looking at side trips, such as Langley and Camano Island, which aren’t directly part of the route but are close by.
“Langley’s honestly one of our most popular destinations on the loop,” Pitts said, adding that the destination is often chosen for its kayaking and seafood.
“Travelers are not sitting in their cars,” she said.
Lynda Eccles, the executive director for the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce, said the federal designation of the loop is wonderful news.
“If you’ve ever driven the whole of this Cascade Loop, it’s pretty amazing,” she said.
The Cascade Loop Association has provided several referrals for Coupeville over the years. Eccles predicted the national scenic byway designation will draw even more attention to the town and the whole of Whidbey.
“Right now, people are looking for places that are real great getaways and offer things big cities don’t have,” she said, such as open air and walking trails.
Sherrye Wyatt, marketing manager for Island County Tourism, said the new designation “opens the door” to explore future funding sources for improvements and marketing opportunities for the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way.
“We are one of only a few scenic byways in the country located entirely on an island,” Wyatt said. “We’re proud to serve as the coastal ‘sea leg’ of the magnificent Cascade Loop.”
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.