Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All We Need Is A Sign

(Make That SIGNS)

I went to a meeting of the Norristown Schuylkill River Action Team a couple weeks ago and this time we talked about signs.

To refresh your memories, the Schuylkill River Trail is 26.5 miles long and just about 1/10th--2.6 miles--runs through Norristown. It's estimated that 800,000 joggers, hikers and bicyclists use the trail every nice weekend in the spring, summer and fall, and frequently on summer evenings. Thousands continue to use the trail the rest of the year. If even 10% of the users travel the Norristown portion of the trail, we ought to be trying to let them know what our town has to offer. On the map you'll note that it doesn't add many tenths of a mile if a trail user takes a detour onto Main.

We could also be attracting potential new users to the Norristown section by having signs on our streets directing people towards the trail. If they park at the Dekalb train station trailhead, along Lafayette, or at Riverfront Park, well then, maybe when they're done an afternoon of exercise, on their drive back out of town, they'll stop for a drink or for supper at one of our restaurants. These signs would have to be put up by the borough, but I think they'd be worth it. Use the logo for the Montgomery County section of the trail (see the photo below), link our town to the trail--say we recognize that the river and the trail is part of our identity. It could only help to change attitudes toward us.

One of the team members rode her bike through the Norristown part of the trail and took photos of existing signs, of which there were very few. There's an information kiosk near the Transportation Center, but it's far enough off the trail that trail users probably don't think it pertains to them. Otherwise you don't see more than mile markers and the back of Industrial Age factories and warehouses, some of which is covered with graffiti.

On the positive side, the Mural Arts folks walked that part of the trail last week to evaluate some of these building walls to use for a mural. Other art is being planned for the Norristown section of the trail, too--sculptures and decorative signs.

Which brings us back to signs--we really need big artistic "Welcome to Norristown" signs at either end of our section of the trail. We need "off ramp" signs at Dekalb Street and maybe Markley, letting people know which way to go to find food, theater, and tourist attractions (like Five Saints Distillery and the Zoo).

We need a large sign on the trail at Riverfront Park, something that proudly proclaims "Home of the Norristown Dragon Boat Club." Right now brush has been cleared away and trail users can now see that we have a park next to the river, but no information signs to say that they can use it and even park there for trail access. This would also be the place to put off-ramp signs to get people to come up Haws Ave to West Main.

We're less than 2 weeks away from Riverfest on Sept 20th. I hope the Dragon Boat Club can at least put a temporary sign up on the trail by this weekend, letting trail users know about the festival. This was done for the Arts Fest and people did come up Dekalb on their bikes to check out the event.

Other communities along the trail--Manayunk, Conshohocken, Phoenixville--are all actively beginning to promote their town to trail users. We need to as well. Let's not be left behind.

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