Editorial: ‘Wayfinding’ project could benefit city, but at what cost?
For many in our region considering vacation destinations, signs often point straight to South Lake Tahoe. But once visitors arrive, they’re frequently lost.
Because our city lacks signs directing people to South Shore attractions, such as beaches, libraries, shopping districts and residential neighborhoods. At least that’s what some local agencies and residents contend.
About 20 residents joined agency representatives at a public workshop last week to discuss the matter.
To alleviate the perceived signage problem, the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce is spearheading what it calls the “Wayfinding” project. Along with El Dorado and Douglas counties, the city of South Lake Tahoe, Caltrans and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the LTSSCC wants to formulate a system of signs that will not only provide direction, but also brand the city.
“We have to stop and create some sense of identity,” says Carl Ribaudo, LTSSCC board chairman and president of the Strategic Marketing Group.
Design consultant Steve Noll, principal of Design Workshop, is overseeing the first phase of the project. He’ll analyze existing area signs and recommend the best type of program, including the number of signs and local codes.
“We’re trying to capture what we have here and elevate it to the next level,” Noll said last week.
One of the goals is to define the city’s neighborhoods. Marking areas such as Tahoe Valley, Bijou, Al Tahoe, Stateline and others could transform the community, Ribaudo says.
So far, the city of South Lake Tahoe has reserved $88,000 for the program; El Dorado County $44,500. But the Wayfinding project’s overall cost currently is unknown, said Nancy Kerry, LTSSCC public affairs officer.
Cost, obviously, is a huge factor in the program’s viability, but attractive directional signs could significantly enhance the city’s personality and individuality. At best, they would help get people where they want to go and reduce erratic driving by distracted motorists searching for landmarks.
The Wayfinding program fits, but not so neatly, into an ongoing debate: Should public money be used to market the South Shore? City council members have wrestled with the issue over time, some arguing that the needs of a tourist-driven economy must be a priority. Others contend that spending money to market the area is irrational considering the city’s infrastructure, personnel and equipment demands.
So what to do?
It’s troubling not knowing the total cost of the proposed Wayfinding program or if new signage will prompt changes in ordinances, but this doesn’t seem to be your typical public-relations campaign. Sure, the program and any publicity that comes from it will help advertise the community, but from what we know about it so far, this is more than a slick, greedy grab for tourist dollars. The proposed signs may actually help all of us get around and animate the city.
Let’s see what the program’s design consultants come up with before pointing thumbs up or down. Hopefully, the agencies involved can formulate a reasonable plan that benefits the city but doesn’t seriously deplete resources for other needs.
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