Daugherty Passion Project: Ozark Run Scenic Byway

Eric Hermanson has always loved maps.

When he was in kindergarten, he brought home a finger painting that outlined the United States, including a few cities and rivers.

So it comes as no surprise that one of his biggest endeavors outside of work is the Ozark Run Scenic Byway – a mapping out of a scenic route across the entire Ozark region, from St. Louis, Mo., to Atoka, Okla.

The Ozarks region comprises about 50,000 square miles – roughly the size of New England.

“It’s all rugged hills and streams and valleys and beautiful,” Eric said.

Eric mapped out a path through the wilderness, and then tested it by driving all 650 miles – through valleys with mountains on either side, at high elevations with beautiful views, past signs that said Crooked and Steep Next 50 Miles.

After that, it was a matter of publicizing it. Eric launched a website, began working with an organization named Scenic Missouri, and they invited him to join their board. During recent months, Scenic Missouri has become a chapter of Scenic America, and they have added the Ozark Run Scenic Byway as a key part of their strategic plan.

Eric has continued to work on the map, identifying branches to other significant landmarks, including a branch to Branson, Mo.

For a byway to earn a national status, it must first become designated as a state byway, which will require buy-in from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Eric is working the Missouri piece of that right now. He has been taking pictures of different Missouri landmarks and now has representation of the byway in summer, fall, winter and spring.

“Every time I take another ride and visit another attraction I didn’t even know existed, I become more and more convinced that this is a really good idea and I need to share this with the world,” he said.

It has also won him networking opportunities with high-ranking officials, like the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri.

You can visit the site at www.ozarkrun.org.