Scenic Context

Scenic resources are in part responsible for our emotional attachments to place, and this emotional dimension can make scenic resources difficult to describe or measure. Yet the importance of scenic resources requires that we develop ways to understand and measure them so we can better manage and protect them.

The Scenic Context features elements that:

  • Encompass visual attributes of the landscape that surrounds and influences us;
  • Represent the features or views that are distinctly characteristic of a region including natural landscapes (mountains, rivers, beaches, wetlands, agricultural and ranch land, forests, etc) and communities (skylines, boulevards, views of historic places, etc);
  • Include features having natural, cultural, social, historical, archeological and recreational significance;
  • Imply an abundance and intensity of elements; and
  • May be intact and undeveloped or may be highly disturbed and almost lost to view.

Info tab Icon -- Scenic America
Evaluating Scenic Resources

Challenges to Scenic resources include:

  • Billboard proliferation;
  • Poor community design and land use decisions;
  • Insensitive placement of telecommunications towers, wind turbines, and utility wires;
  • Inadequate tree protection;
  • Poor landscaping; and
  • Inadequate visual mitigation of activities that disturb the landscape.
For more information on Scenic Resources and the challenges they face, visit:

Info tab Icon -- Scenic America

Article Icon Scenic Solutions: Designs and Methods to Save America the Beautiful
Scenic Solutions is a compendium of 45 case studies representing a variety of innovative designs and methods to save America's cherished visual environment.
--  USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
Scenic America

Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Evaluating Scenic Resources
This bulletin describes a methodology for identifying and evaluating scenic resources found in communities across the country as well as their value as placed on them by citizens. It also identifies references and contacts for individuals interested in pursuing the subject or needing professional assistance. Scenic America hopes that citizens find this bulletin useful and that it stimulates discussion about the importance of scenic resources and techniques for their protection.
--  Scenic America
Excerpt IconExcerpt Inventory Tools
Most scenic resource inventory work is done on walking or road surveys. These are the standard tools used to record information in the field.  more...
from  Evaluating Scenic Resources
Article Icon Scenic Quality Criteria
This excerpt from Evaluating Scenic Resources illustrates five scenic quality criteria. It features photos of built and natural environments along with rating scales to show how one can appropriately describe scenic resources.
--  Scenic America
Book Icon Book Aesthetics, Community Character, and the Law
For decades, architects and planners have sought to balance the environmental and economic consequences of development. Today's planners also recognize that the aesthetic aspects of development can play a significant role in the lives of our communities.
--  Scenic America
American Planning Association

Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Getting it Right in the Right of Way: Citizen Participation in Context-Sensitive Highway Design
Getting It Right In the Right-of-Way is an action guide for people who want roads that preserve the beauty of their communities, as well as roads that are safe, durable, and economical to maintain.
--  Scenic America
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report A Methodology for Scenic Byways Visual Analysis
Washington State has had no consistent process for designating highways as Scenic Byways. To fill the gap, a team from the Washington State Department of Transportation developed a methodology to collect and analyze data based on the Federal Highway Administration's Visual Impact Assessment of Highway Projects. These data have been used by the department and the legislature to designate new highway corridors as Scenic Byways and can be used to de-designate sections of highway from the Byway system that are no longer "scenic" By Sandra L. Salisbury, L.A., Paula Connelley, Judy Lorenzo, Washington State Department of Transportation.
-- Sandra L. Salisbury, L.A.; Paula Connelley; Judy Lorenzo, Washington State Department of Transportation
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report California Scenic Conservation Initiative: Scenic Resource Mapping Methodology
This paper describes a general methodology that can be used to inventory and map scenic resources based on a methodology created by Scenic California to inventory and map scenic resources for the California Scenic Conservation Initiative (CSCI) project. A scenic inventory is a comprehensive photographic documentation of characteristic landscapes and scenic features in the landscape. By Shelia Brady, Scenic California.
--  Scenic America
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Countryside Assessment
The Countryside Assessment report resulted from a series of Rural Design Demonstration projects completed in 1992, sponsored by the NRCS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The intent of the assessment procedure is to provide flexible, conceptual framework to use in any countryside setting. It was designed to work at various scales and for a variety of objectives. By Carolyn A. Adams, ASLA and Gary W. Wells, ASLA, USDA Natural Resources conservation Service.
--  Scenic America
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Visual Impact Assessment for Highway Projects
This field guide is intended to help those who prepare or review the coverage of visual impacts in environmental assessments or impact statements for highway projects. The guide discusses how to develop such coverage and how to review its adequacy.
--  Federal Highway Administration
Landscape and Interpretation Project, US-101
Raymond, WA
This project was part of Washington's scenic byways improvement program. It was a top priority for the city of Raymond to create a visually appealing community for travelers along US-101 and to introduce travelers to the unique Willapa basin, with its forested hills, natural rivers, tidal estuaries, salt marshes, and pristine bay.

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