Visiting motorists to Columbia County will soon receive a noticeable welcome along some roadways.
As part of a Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau project to improve signs along gateways, the county commission recently allowed for the installation of new "welcome" signs at the county borders on Stevens Creek and Flowing Wells roads.
The signs simply read "Welcome to Columbia County," note the founding year of the county as 1790 and feature the county's sailboat logo.
"We consistently heard, 'simple, classic, elegant' " for the sign design, said Cathy Hayes, the chairwoman of a CVB committee on signs and directional assistance. "That was the rally cry of everyone."
The signs are the result of a yearlong series of discussions and meetings, which followed a July 2009 report from Randall Travel Marketing owner Judy Randall that said Columbia County lacked signs designating gateways or directing visitors to hotels, restaurants, shops and other amenities.
Initial discussions by the CVB board and sign committee focused on more intricate signs that might allow for changeable messages. Instead, CVB officials opted for a 3-by-6-foot vinyl sign mounted on posts. The signs will cost $475 to buy and $181 to install, said county Construction and Maintenance Services Director Matt Schlachter.
The CVB board approved spending $3,000 for the signs and installation, according to county documents.
"At first, we looked at soliciting outside designs and everyone decided because we had a limited budget we could come up with something in house," Hayes said. "We went through numerous designs and revisions to get to this final selection."
But it might not be the final selection.
Once they are in place, a survey will be held to seek public input on the design. The sign might change, Hayes said, if enough people dislike it.
Those surveys will be available on the CVB's Web site, visitcocoga.com, and the county's Web site, www.columbiacountyga.gov.
Schlachter, a member of the signage and wayfinding committee, said the signs should be in place by the end of the month.
A study conducted by the committee noted 26 gateway entrances into the county suitable for the welcome signs once a final design is determined. Stevens Creek and Flowing Wells roads were the first choices to receive the signs because both are on county-owned roads.
Just nine of the gateways are on county roads. All others are state roads. County officials will need permission from the state Department of Transportation to install signs on those rights of way.
Though the new signs help meet Randall's criteria for creating a sense of place for the county, they don't point the way to anything.
"That's much further into the process," Hayes said. "This is a phased project, with the first phase being getting everyone to agree on a design."
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