Council considers Wayfinding

By on May 11, 2011

Many communities struggle with ways in which they can draw more customers from surrounding communities to their downtown shopping district. That is just one of the core objectives Ephrata Borough leaders are hoping to accomplish through a new Wayfinding project being proposed to council. At Monday night s regular voting session, Jonathan Mugmon of AECOM was on hand to present the benefits and hoped for objectives of such a project. Wayfinding is a series or system of signs to help direct visitors to the community with regard to points of interest and business, Mugmon explained. It is not just about signs welcoming visitors to the borough but an introduction to local history, arts and culture as well. It is also a way of routing people into a community.

Mugmon explained that those who live within a community will typically follow the same basic path to get from point A to point B. Wayfinding is designed to enhance the brand experience and convenience those visiting the community can expect. Special signage would help to direct visitors to key points of interest. Wayfinding also works to brand the town in a unique way through consistency. Effectively done, it can do more than simply point visitors to parking. It creates a sort of hierarchy of super-destinations signed from periphery of the area down to smaller points of attraction noted on sidewalk maps. Such super-destinations, such as the historic downtown and the Ephrata Cloister help to draw visitors to the area. A mapping series would determine the appropriate boundaries of the borough and identify key entry points to the community. It would also create routing plans based on those super-destinations. According to Magmon, the study also took into account events just outside the area such as The Green Dragon Farmers Market to help people navigate through the area without huge impact on traffic or frustration to the visitor. Wayfinding also creates a walking district with a focus on the core of the downtown. Outdoor grade maps designed to withstand the weather and really hold up would be placed throughout the area. The committee which is looking into the project is in the process of coordinating their efforts with PA Department of Transportation with regard to sign design. Each state has their own idea of what is acceptable and what is not, following a specific design criteria, explained Magmon. It identify attributes of our community, including things that make Ephrata unique compared to other communities.

Ephrata s Wayfinding project would also discuss the history and legacy of the area as well as specific entry features welcoming visitors to town. Vehicular directional signs would be reviewed for consistency with the overall theme of the project And some existing signs which might be too busy, confusing or poorly placed, might be removed in favor of new signs. We must be careful to not have the street signs be too busy or confusing, noted Magmon. Signs must be able to quickly and easily direct the visitor.

Throughout his presentation, Magmon emphasized the importance such a program can have on presenting a consistent, well-defined Ephrata Brand Experience" to help draw visitors to the community Acting Borough Manager Bob Thompson recognized the committee for all their hard work. This committee has worked very hard, said Thompson. Councilman (Susan) Rowe, Kip van Larken from the County Planning Commission, Richard Smith (Chamber of Commerce); Shirley Daniels from the borough and Dave Lloyd (Recreation Center) all worked on the project. Thompson added that the Development Activities Committee of borough council will be taking the next steps to incorporate the findings into a working plan. A county Urban Enhancement Grant is a matching grant which would cover up to one-third of the overall cost of the project and the borough would fund the remaining two-thirds. The borough budgeted $123,000 for the total project cost, with $41,000 of that coming from the grant and the borough picking up the ball on the remaining $82,000. The grant term, which has already been awarded to the borough, expires November 2011, unless an extension of time is granted. The study was $36,000. In other business, the borough plans to hold a public hearing Monday, June 6 at 6:30 in council chambers to discuss a proposed ordinance regarding front porch enclosures. The Development Activities Committee has been working to amend the Zoning Ordinance establishing requirements for enclosing existing, non-conforming front porches. Council awarded a bid for $25,950 to low bidder S & T Painting Inc. of Parkton, MD, for painting of the exterior of the Sharadin Bigler Theater (Playhouse in the Park). That figure is below the budgeted figure of $35,000. The Community Services Committee also reported that the Committee had discussed various items related to the community pool project at their recent committee meeting. As such, the committee directed the borough staff to discuss several possible changes to the plan with project engineering group, Wade Associates. Those possible changes include reducing the width of the bulkheads in the recreation pool, inclusion of rock climbing walls to serve both adult and intermediate swimmers, and removing the underwater seating area in the infant pool area. Resident Andy Kuzmiak was again on hand for the meeting with additional points of contention and questions of council regarding the pool project. He questioned Lloyd, also in attendance, regarding his correspondence with Wade Associates on possible changes. Lloyd said that he had been in touch with Wade Associates but that their recommendation was to keep the plans for the pool as they were. Thompson added that in order for the project to remain on schedule to begin construction right after the pool closes on Labor Day of this year, the bidding process would need to begin directly. He indicated the bid packages would be available in June with hopes of having them back in July, so that contracts to lowest bidders could be done in for this time line. Kuzmiak renewed his call for council to find additional ways to cut the cost of the project even further. Only 5 percent of borough residents go to the pool, asserted Kuzmiak. And 8 percent of pool patrons come from outside the community. I feel the amenities can wait. Because of the economic times this is the time to look at ways to cut the costs on this project.

In comments following the meeting, Kuzmiak underscored his point on the impact that portion of out of town patrons might have on sustainability of the pool long term. I don’t think the burden of running the pool is shared equally by surrounding municipalities, said Kuzmiak. It s our pool but those from outside Ephrata are only charged minimally more as patrons for the use of the pool. I m not sure our non-resident rates are adequate. I feel we need to weigh the benefits and consequences of spending that amount of money against the burden the taxpayers bear. More COUNCIL, page A6

About Ephrata Review