Route 66 in the Mojave Desert

Foundation to promote Route 66 for state
FUNDRAISING: Museum hopes to create entity for preservation, maintenance of highway.

Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE -- This city will soon host a state organization that aims to preserve Route 66, stationed midway between the state line and the coast.

Jim Conkle, a board member for the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, is trying to get the ball rolling on a sister organization, the California Route 66 Preservation Foundation.

"It is going to benefit everybody from the bridge in Needles to the pier in Santa Monica," he said.

The foundation aims to act as a clearinghouse for the state's Route 66 preservation, repair, education and marketing projects, streamlining them to make the sum of the parts greater than the whole.

It would work with a variety of agencies, including San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties and the Bureau of Land Management, as well as cities and business owners along the route.

"This plan should include an exhaustive list of programs and projects that, if implemented, will create a deeper understanding and appreciation for the impact Route 66 has had on contemporary life," according to a proposal based on workshops conducted by the county and the BLM.

But in order to get started on all those projects, the foundation needs to come up with a couple hundred thousand dollars in seed money, Conkle said.

"I really don't know where the money will come from and until the money comes, we can't do what we want to do," Conkle said. "This is not going to be something that's a small endeavor. It's not an overnight and it's not a guarantee. We may get started on a shoestring."

He said he hopes to have the money start rolling in and the office doors open by July.

He'd like staff hired by September, with a Web site and advertising in full swing.

Nov. 11 is the road's 75th anniversary.

The foundation's long-term goals include taking inventories of the entire California stretch of Route 66, checking for places that need repair, compiling stories about its history, seeking grant money and developing a marketing plan to encourage tourism along it.

It will operate from Old Town Heritage Preservation Inc., a nonprofit organization. The museum shares the same umbrella.

Conkle said the foundation plans to rent space from the museum, but will not operate as part of it.

Still, their missions will be similar -- to boast about the presence of the road and help people understand its history.

"It's one of these things that's an American legend and more," he said.

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