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Paonia signage master planning underway

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Photo by Tamie Meck A truck and travel trailer head north past the entrance to Paonia. The North Fork Valley Creative Coalition is in the early phases of creating a signage master plan to pull people off of the highway and into town. Once in town, signs w

As Paonia garners more attention and more visitors, it's becoming very apparent that the town lacks signage.

Signs, said Kristin Cypher, a planner and owner of Henderson-based C+B Design, are more than just directional in nature. They should induce civic pride, reflect a community's image, invite people in, and help generate revenue.

Cypher has two decades in urban design and planning experience and has facilitated signage master plans in several cities and towns and for major trail systems across the state and beyond. "I want signs to invite people to town in a way that honors the community's character," she said. "Signs are the front door to that character."

Paonia's signage, she said, "doesn't provide a great deal of clarity."

Cypher recently facilitated a week-long series of meetings hosted by the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition. Information gathered will be used in the coalition's "Wayfinding and Signage Master Plan." Funding for phase one of the three-phase project came from a $10,000 Project and Technical Assistance Grant from Colorado Creative Industries through the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Delta County commissioners kicked in an additional $2,500 in matching economic development funds.

"This week is pretty intense," said Cypher, who spent the week meeting with the public, manning a booth at the annual Paonia River Fest. The week ended with an open house presentation of draft design palates, and was attended by more than 35 individuals.

NFVCC board president Susie Kaldis complimented Cypher for her work. "She really made everyone in the community feel like they had a voice in this project, which is exactly what we wanted."

With signs, said Cypher, there's more to consider than providing direction. Before visiting Paonia, Cypher said she heard on the Front Range about how special Paonia is. "How do we manifest that into signage?"

Because of those and other considerations, a lot goes into creating a signage master plan. "There are a lot of mechanics to consider." For example, signs placed within the Highway 133 right of way must meet Colorado Department of Transportation guidelines.

Town trustees will also have the final say in approving design and placement of signs. Once approved, the NFVCC can obtain cost estimate bids and apply for funding, said Cypher.

Draft designs will be presented to the Delta County BoCC at the June 25 meeting, and to Paonia trustees on June 26. Kaldis said that getting approval for the plan could take up to four months. She sees the project being completed by late 2019.

Of the communities she's worked with, said Cypher, Paonia is unique in that the local talent exists to make the signs. From a fabrication standpoint, for communities that lack the capacity to build their own signs it's a very prescriptive process that takes about two years to complete. For Paonia, how long it will take depends largely on funding and the capacity for artists to obtain materials and labor and find the time to make the signs. Because they can be made locally, some of the smaller signs could be made and in place as early as this summer.

"I've never worked in a community where I know that the people who lived there can build it," said Cypher. "We haven't had the conversation with all those makers ... and that's one of the next steps."

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North Fork
Paonia, signage
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