FRANKLIN — Joanne VanCoevern drives a black GMC Acadia with dusty tires. It would be a lot cleaner, she said, if she didn’t use the car to “chase ruts,” the historic grooves of trails and wagon roads carved into the earth by wheels and hooves through the American countryside.
She drives 20,000 miles a year, she said, to explore and promote those trails, enough travel that she nicknamed the vehicle the “rutmobile.”
Saturday those trails brought VanCoevern, the Sante Fe Trail Association manager, to Franklin, where the Boone’s Lick Road Association unveiled a new sign to commemorate the path that connected the eastern United States to the Santa Fe Trail.
“This is our big accomplishment this year,” said David Sapp, Boone’s Lick Road Association president. “We’re going to try to get some respect for the Boone’s Lick Road.”
The new placard accompanies three others, arranged as an informational “kiosk,” VanCoevern said, that discuss the importance of the road and its historical significance.
The Boone’s Lick association plans to lobby Congress next year to make the road a national historic trail. The process can take close to a decade, said Ross Marhall, past president of the Santa Fe Trail Association. There are 30 national historic trails recognized by Congress, and Marshall goes to Washington each year to advocate for more funding.
A local congressional representative must introduce legislation calling for a feasibility study, then the National Park Service conducts a five-year study into the path’s historical significance and the ability to maintain it, according to the park service.
If the service recommends to Congress to establish the trail, the bill must clear both houses.
Boone’s Lick Road Association members said Saturday was just the beginning of that process, but the initiative is gaining momentum. Just a stone’s throw away lie monuments to the town of Old Franklin, destroyed by floods in 1828, and the historic salt lick found by legendary trailblazers Nathan and Daniel Boone.
The Katy Bridge Coalition is raising money to renovate the Boonville Bridge on the Katy Trail for pedestrian and bike traffic.
Sapp said the road association was looking at plans to collaborate with other trail foundations with the hope of establishing a national trail museum in Franklin.
“I don’t think there’s a unified vision yet,” he said, “but we’re all realizing there needs to be. There’s an opportunity for something special here we need to take advantage of. There’s so many spots close together. It’s meant to be.”