WILTON, Iowa — Whether they knew it or not, people have been driving down an historic Iowa road for years.
Now, several cities along that road — including two in Muscatine County — want to make sure people don’t pass them by.
On Thursday, Dave Darby, executive director of the Iowa division of the Route 6 Tourist Association, will give a public presentation about the historic route and signs that are going up along the road.
Beginning at 6 p.m. at the Wilton Community Center, 1215 Cypress St., Darby will discuss what the new Historic Route 6 markers in Wilton, Durant, Walcott and Davenport mean to their communities and those around them.
“These signs are important because there is a growing interest in people traveling a two-lane highway,” Darby said. “People want to follow the old route, but without the signs they won’t because they don’t want to get lost.”
Darby noted that when people follow the signs now, they travel along Interstate 80 because in 1980, more than 100 miles of Route 6 was
re-routed onto Interstate 80.
“People miss a lot when they bypass Walcott, Durant and Wilton on the interstate,” Darby said.
“Across Iowa, 16 towns are left out in the cold and that hurts commerce,” Darby said, citing a local example. When people bypass Wilton, he pointed out, they miss out on one of the world’s oldest ice cream shops: the Wilton Candy Kitchen.
Darby said once signs are installed along the nearly 30 miles of road between these towns, he’ll go to the other side of the state and and do it all again.
“These are the pilot program towns,” Darby said.
By joining the non-profit tourist association, Darby said each town gets one free sign. Durant Mayor Dawn Smith said the Durant City Council voted to use funds from the general fund to pay for an additional sign. The Durant Chamber of Commerce also also purchased a sign.
Smith said anything that pulls people off the interstate and onto roads that go through towns like hers is a good thing for the community.
“It’s an asset and a way to bring tour groups that basically bypass our towns back to the community,” Smith said.
Smith echoed Darby’s excitement about the markers, saying that with new people passing through the towns, “It’ll show what each town is known for and what makes each town special.”
Down the road, both Darby and Smith expressed a desire to place brochures at places like the World’s Largest Truckstop located in Walcott along I-80 to help bring more people through the towns.
“These signs will compliment our towns and help build tourism in the areas,” Smith said.