Commissioners approve using ARPA funds to create county wayfinding signage system

Published 12:01 am Friday, January 20, 2023

SALISBURY — Lost? The Rowan County Tourism Development Authority is going to help you find your way.

At Tuesday’s Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting, the authority’s executive director, James Meacham, asked for $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Action funds to bring a “wayfinding signage system” to Rowan County. Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the funds.

Instead of the classic — and sometimes boring — street signs you see now, the signage system will bring map designs, colors, symbols and typography to the county’s streets.

But city and street names won’t be the only thing on these new signs. There will also be names of local tourist spots, public facilities, schools, parks and government services. In total, 93 new signs will be placed throughout the county. That number could change based on discussions on what signs each municipality wants.

Gateway signs will also be created to welcome residents and visitors to different towns in the county.

“We are looking at basically covering all the major corridors across the entire county. It would be an integrated system that would use our major thoroughfares and connect the different cities and municipalities,” Meacham said in explaining the scope of the project. “We are confident that this would not only take us to another level in terms of community economic development, but would also provide the necessary infrastructure to make sure residents and visitors alike know the importance of the community.”

It will also add a stronger sense of identity to the county, Meachem said.

Meacham explained several reasons why a wayfinding system would be beneficial:

• Location association. The system will make it easier for residents or visitors to get directions, to know where they are in the county and what specific sites they are close to, such as the library or the police station.

• Community branding. The signs will have logos and designs that are specific to what part of the county you are in. For instance, one rendering that was presented is a sign for East Spencer and has the town’s slogan, “The Original Southern City,” on the bottom.

• Sign clutter. Instead of multiple signs in a given area such as “Downtown” or “Courthouse,” the system will allow those to be condensed into one sign. This also means fewer signs would need to be maintained.

• Improved access to various industries such as tourism, hospitality, recreation and arts.

• Enhanced safety.

The authority got the idea to bring the wayfinding system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the pandemic we did realize the importance of having strong directional signage, the need to direct people in the communities to those public facilities and (give) additonal opportunities to explore the county,” Meacham said.

The city of Salisbury already has a wayfinding system. The county system would tie into that one and extend it to the entire county. Cabarrus County also just finished a countywide system.

The authority is planning to go into each community and work with town boards and councils to create the best possible designs for each design. They would then work with the Rowan County Planning and Development for the county signs. Finally, they would present to North Carolina Department of Transportation for approval because many of the areas where the signs would be located would be on or near NCDOT roads.

Once all that is complete, the authority will come back to the commissioners for final approval.