Scenic quality is the heightened visual experience derived from the view of natural and manmade elements of the visual environment of the scenic byway corridor. The characteristics of the landscape are strikingly distinct and offer a pleasing and most memorable visual experience. All elements of the landscape—landform, water, vegetation, and manmade development—contribute to the quality of the corridor’s visual environment. Everything present is in harmony and shares in the intrinsic qualities. (FHWA Interim Policy, May 18, 1995)
Description, Significance, Condition, Trends
Long Views. Long views of Katahdin represent signature views from this roadway providing the “wow” factor where they occur. The Byway group has identified a number of locations along the corridor where these views of Katahdin are especially impressive including Ash Hill (Patten), the Summit Farm (Stacyville), and the area around Pockwokamus Rock.
Long views across water occur at various points along the Byway. High value long water view points include the boat launch area at Grand Lake Matagamon, the picnic area at the Dolby flowage, and launch areas at Millinocket and Ambajejus Lakes (at “the Lake”).
Of particular interest with respect to scenic quality are points from which views of Katahdin include water bodies in the foreground as for example at the previously mentioned picnic area on the Dolby Flowage and at points along the Golden Road (not on the designated roadway but easily accessible from it).
Visual evaluations of the rivers and lakes included in state agency studies mentioned in the Natural Qualities section note consistent and multiple opportunities to view Katahdin and other nearby mountains from the water, suggesting that the scenic quality of the corridor is significantly increased should a Byway traveler be able to get out on the water!
Finally with respect to long views, as referenced in the Cultural Qualities section, a considerable body of fine art painting has taken Katahdin as a subject. There may be no more compelling testimony to the “long view” scenic quality of the place than the fact that artists of national and even international standing from Frederick Church to Marsden Hartley to Neil Welliver traveled to the Katahdin area time and again over many years and in all seasons to render the mountain’s ever-changing and always highly dramatic aspect.
Intermediate Views. While perhaps more limited with respect to “wow” factor, intermediate views contribute to the visual experience of the Byway traveler and their quality is also therefore of considerable importance.
Intermediate views include, per above, areas of dramatic topographic interest as for example the view of Traveler from Hurricane Deck. More plentiful are intermediate views of water as, for example, at the bridge crossing of the East Branch south of Matagamon, the picnic area at the Seboeis River, the Shin Pond bridge, and the Grindstone picnic area which provides direct access to Grindstone Falls and where the roadway travels some distance immediately beside the East Branch. Togue Ponds near the south entrance to Baxter State Park offer lovely intermediate water views, as well as picnic areas and swimming from a sandy beach. Again, for the Byway traveler who is willing to venture slightly off the roadway itself, several short hikes to intermediate water views are available, as for example via foot trails to Haskell Rock and Shin Falls.
Intermediate views also include fields and forests. As noted in the Natural Quality section, the Byway does travel long distances through working forests, which, depending on the which point in the harvest/growth cycle particular stands happen represent, may exhibit higher or lower aesthetic appeal. Open fields such as Ash Hill and Summit Farm offer great views west to Katahdin and are themselves visually appealing. Condition of roadside fields along the corridor varies depending on how actively they are being farmed.
Intermediate views may also include views of towns and villages. Towns to the north of Medway retain much of their historical character, and property owners are holding their own with respect to general maintenance levels. Portions of the corridor from Medway to Millinocket have seen considerable commercial strip development, some of which does detract from the visual quality of the area, though downtowns in this corridor segment are well kept and attractive.
Industrial installations occurring in downtown locations have their own aesthetic appeal and are kept in good order and repair.
The area through which the Byway passes is something of a jurisdictional patchwork with respect to land use planning and regulation. The Byway itself has no “regulatory” authority. Maintenance of scenic qualities relies on conventional land use practices which can and do produce somewhat erratic results, again from a scenic quality point of view.
Of particular concern may be the gradual degradation of agricultural lands. When farming is no longer profitable in an area, fields quickly revert to their natural forested state, filling with early successional brush and obscuring roadside views.