Scenic Byway advisory committee member selected
for recreation/tourism lifetime achievement award

Tony Varilone, a longtime member of ITD’s Scenic Byway Advisory Committee, recently was selected for the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award in Recreation and Tourism. The award presented by the Idaho Department of Commerce, Tourism Division was based, in part, on his contributions to Idaho’s highly acclaimed Scenic Byway program.

He has been active in promoting, encouraging and improving recreation and tourism in Idaho since he arriving in 1984.

As the ranger on the Caribou National Forest in southeast Idaho, Tony worked diligently to ensure a multiple-use approach for the forest. Shortly after coming to Idaho he recognized the value of tourism as an economic benefit. After retiring from the USFS, Varilone began volunteer service on the Soda Springs to the Pioneer Country Travel Council (PCTC). He has been on the council since the early 1990s as the representative for either the city of Soda Springs, the Soda Springs Chamber of Commerce or both.

In 1992, he served on the committee to designate Soda Springs as a Certified “GEM Community” and has served on that board continuously since its certification. Currently, he is the secretary and continues to be active in promoting projects that will enhance the tourism potential of Soda Springs and Caribou County.

Varilone’s activities in community development and tourism promotion are legion, according to his nomination for the award. He was responsible for garnering grants over many years that totaled over $75,000 for the rebuilding and improvement of Geyser Park and Octagon Springs Park. Both parks have become major hubs of tourist activities in Soda Springs. Geyser Park houses the world’s only captive geyser and is a major hub of activity for travelers of all ages.

The Octagon Park is a picnic spot where the travelers can partake of naturally carbonated water and enjoy a picnic in the shelter of the pavilion located within the park.

His efforts, vision and energy secured the funding for the restoration of the “Galloping Goose” the historic bus that once operated between Soda Springs and Conda. The attraction is located in Corrigan Park, along U.S. 30, which, through Varilone’s efforts, has received a grant for the development and improvement of toilet facilities and a skate park.

He has been instrumental in obtaining funds for and the production of dozens of travel information brochures about the Oregon Trail, historic sites and recreational opportunities in Caribou County and southeastern Idaho.

“What goes unsaid and speaks volumes,” according to the nomination, “is that Tony Varilone does most all of the activities without pay and, very often, without personal recognition. He says again and again, "I am not bragging nor complaining. However, I am having a wonderful time being part of some great organizations and working with many fantastic and dedicated people.”

He joined the Caribou Historical Society in 1993 and and serves as chairman of the society. Varilone has encouraged and helped develop the following historical tourism initiatives:

  • Through the National Park Service Long Distance Trails Office NPSLDTO grants we have produced the brochure “Travel the Oregon Trail in Caribou County” and placed high quality interpretive signage at the sites listed in the brochure;
  • An “Historic Buildings of Soda Springs” brochure;
  • The “Cariboo Jack” project which consists of five 4 ft x 8ft interpretive panels about several aspects of the Soda Springs/Caribou County history. These are located in the City’s Geyser Visitor Information building adjacent to Geyser Park.
  • Currently, they have obtained funding from the LDTO to purchase and install “wayfinding” signage to these sites.

Southeast Idaho has two Scenic Byways, the Pioneer Historic Byway (PHB) and the Oregon Trail Bear Lake Scenic Byway (OTBLSB). They were designated in 1983. In the 1990s, Varilone organized a separate byway team for each route consisting of representatives from communities along each byway.

They began implementing projects to develop the tourism resources along each byway through ITD/NSB (national scenic byway) grants. These include, a Corridor Management Plan for each byway, interpretive sign grants, brochure development and distribution, and website development and management, and “wayfinding” signage to the interpretive sites. The PCTC has been featuring the two byways in most of its advertising venues.

Photo: Tony Varilone receives the 2011 Lifetime Achievement award from Karen Ballard, administrator of the Idaho Department of Commerce's Tourism Division.

Published 5-13-2011