Hocking County has a problem. You can guess what it is when I tell you that there are now 22 large advertising billboards along state Route 664 between Old Man's Cave State Park and US 33.
The above stretch of state Route 664 is starting to look like the main highway leading into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which has tragically been over-commercialized for decades.
Just recently, about a half dozen new mega-sized billboards have been erected by the Nauman Outdoor Advertising Company based in Lancaster. Some of these have yet to be rented with signs on them reading "Rent Me." This indicates that these huge signs were not commissioned by local businesses but were erected by Nauman in hopes of renting them in the near future — speculation on their behalf.
There are also numerous small signs along state Route 664 in front of locally owned businesses, which is perfectly okay. These were not included in the above total of 22. The small locally owned businesses have a right to advertise their operations, usually placing tasteful signs on property that they own.
Hocking County missed a golden opportunity t control billboards when it did not make state Route 664 a designated Scenic Byway like it did for several other state routes in our county. No advertising is allowed when a road has been designated a Scenic Byway.
What's to be done? At the moment, probably nothing since there are no existing regulations regarding advertising, no codes to be enforced. This emphasizes the urgent need for some form of zoning if we want to keep this county pristine. Tourists are not coming to look at billboards. They are coming to enjoy the natural beauty of the area which is being slowly but surely compromised by over advertising.
To point the finger of guilt solely at Nauman is not quite fair. Those paying Nauman to have their businesses promoted are also partly the blame. If Nauman did not have renters for their billboards, they would not erect them.
I urge our County Commissioners and citizens of Hocking County to create some regulations, at least for billboards, in order to stop the decimation that is occurring before our eyes.