Group mounting a ‘Welcome to Fergus Falls’ sign projectPublished 11:04am Friday, January 18, 2013
Many rural, small communities have beautiful and permanent monument signs welcoming people into town. But not Fergus Falls.
For the last two years the Fergus Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) board has discussed the lack of welcoming signage, and has decided to lead the charge in doing something about it.
“The objective is simply to welcome people and remind visitors where they are,” said Jean Bowman, CVB Executive Director. “Having five exits off I-94 means we have lots of people for whom this might not be their final destination. A visual reminder that is creative and welcoming is positive and helpful.”
But because there is more than one major thoroughfare approaching town, and gateway signs are expensive, the project is no small task.
“Since the City doesn’t have funds to do this, we brought the idea to Forward Fergus Falls — they were supportive, but not enough to make it one of the Destiny Drivers,” said Bowman. “So, our board said let’s lead the charge.”
A committee was formed with members from the CVB, the city, Forward Fergus Falls, Springboard for the Arts, Blandin Leadership, West Central Initiative and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We are working on this collaboration to make Fergus Falls more welcoming for everyone — residents and visitors,” said Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Workman. “A beautiful gateway welcome sign will be a landmark monument that makes our residents and businesses proud to call Fergus Falls home.”
Last August the group sent out request for proposals to nine artists, then narrowed it down to two. Based on the proposals, a design by local artist Lance Albers was selected. Albers submitted his concept in model form, which includes steel wrapped around rough-hewn log posts, with the end of the metal cut in the shape of Minnesota.
While the final design will be refined, the group intends to keep the overall look clean, with short and simple text.
“The signs are not intended for way-finding, so there will be no logos or slogans that might be out of date in the future,” said Bowman.
Seven locations are proposed for the gateway signs and were determined based on traffic counts of people entering the community in 2007, and projections through 2030.
While approval from landowners still need to be secured, and issues like zoning addressed, the tentative locations the group is looking at, in prioritized order, includes: 1. Near Hwy 210 west at exit 54 of I-94 at the Walmart Superstore; 2. County Road 82 near exit 61 of I-94 at Big Chief; 3. County Road 1 near Rusdic Circle; 4. Hwy. 210 east of town near County Road 29 past the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center; 5. Hwy. 210 near exit 57 of I-94; 6. County Road 1 near exit 55 of I-94; 7. County Road 88 north past the Otter Tail County Humane Society on the outskirts of town.
The total fundraising goal for all seven monuments is $150,000. The CVB and Chamber have committed to contribute $6,000 each. The CVB is organizing a mailing to businesses and an insert to be included with invoices sent out by the city.
“Our goal is to have the first monument up by June 30, and the others will follow based on fundraising success and other approvals,” said Bowman.
Bowman will be presenting an update on the gateway sign project at the City’s public works committee meeting on Jan. 30.