State Road 17 Story
Traveling the Ridge Scenic Highway
Traveling the Ridge Scenic Highway offers an introduction to the ecology, history, and culture of Central Florida. Travelers who take time to walk in the historic communities, tour the unique attractions, or partake of the activities available in the parks and conservation areas located along The Ridge Scenic Highway leaves travelers with a new understanding of Central Florida, its ecology, its history, and its people.
The Good Roads Movement and Construction of the Scenic Highway
The Good Roads movement that began around 1910 facilitated further economic growth in Polk County. Understanding the economic significance of regional transportation systems, residents of Polk County took an early interest in funding and constructing a reliable network of roadways. In June 1914, the Polk County Good Roads Association was organized. That same year, a $1,500,000 bond issue was passed that funded the construction of 217 miles of asphalt highways.
The Ridge Scenic Highway, locally known as Scenic Highway, was among the first regional roadways constructed in Polk County. In December 1917, the Scenic Highway was completed from Haines City to Lake Wales, extending as far south as Lake Easy. By May 1918, Scenic Highway had been completed from Haines City to Frostproof. While a vast improvement over existing dirt roads, the road was only nine-feet wide, a little wider than the track of a model T.
Residents of Polk County continued to work to improve safety and aesthetics along the Scenic Highway. In 1921, the Crooked Lake community passed a resolution requesting that clay shoulders be added to Scenic Highway, with cement shoulders on the hills. In 1923, the Associated Board of Trade of the Scenic Highlands, representing Davenport to DeSota City, advocated a bond issue to widen the ninefoot road to 16 feet. In June 1923 C.W. Lawrence, Max Waldron, and J.E. Hunt planted trees along the highway and bignonia vines on the fences along the Scenic Highway from Crooked Lake to Lake Moody. Scenic Highway was renamed State Road 8 in 1926. A beautification project was completed in 1932, planting oaks and 170 palms along State Road 8.