Port Angeles council approves wayfinding sign design

PORT ANGELES — A two-thirds majority of the Port Angeles City Council has approved a final design concept for the city’s wayfinding system.

The directional signs will point tourists to attractions like the downtown historic district, Elwha Klallam Heritage Center and Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center.

The council approved the final design concept by a 4-2 vote Feb. 5.

Council members Mike French, Jim Moran, Cherie Kidd and Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter voted for the design as recommended by the Port Angeles Forward Committee.

Council members Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and Mayor Sissi Bruch voted no. Council member Michael Merideth was absent.

Bruch said the approved design was more simple and elegant than a previous iteration but lacked “pizzazz.”

She noted the signs’ lack of Native American art or reference to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

“I always felt like the tribal identity for Port Angeles really actually made us special, because very few towns have a tribe that is actually part of their town,” Bruch said at the Feb. 5 council meeting.

“So I am really sorry to see absolutely zero kind of tribal art on this.”

“These are clean and simple, but they don’t do anything special for me, and I wish that there was some of that specialness that [we] had in the previous one,” Bruch added.

French, a downtown business owner who serves on the Port Angeles Forward Committee, said the committee faced a “difficult” task because the downtown area lacks a theme.

“I fear that we already kind of have too many different competing designs happening with no overarching plan,” French said.

“So I don’t want to contribute more to that.”

Later in the meeting, French added: “In the future of downtown, I see Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe being a big participant in creating a vision for the long-term of downtown that can encompass more than just city signage.”

Kidd, who chairs the Port Angeles Forward Committee, said there would be “a lot of opportunity” to further incorporate Native American art into the downtown area, where several major projects are planned.

“We need something attractive but workable — readable, workable, uncluttered,” Kidd said of the wayfinding system.

“We have so much cluttered signage around, and yes, this is basic, but it’s attractive and its functioning. And we want it to function so people can find their way around.”

Schromen-Wawrin questioned the need to have signs pointing people in directions of “things that you can easily find on your phone.”

“I’m not looking up at signs and trying to figure out ‘Oh, there’s a sign that points me in the direction of the historic district,’” Schromen-Wawrin said.

“I mean, my phone tells me.”

Dexter said clear signs would help create a walkable downtown where people would “put their phone away.”

“I think I would like to encourage people to put their phones away,” Dexter said.

“I like the way they look, and I like the idea of continuing to have signs.”

Moran said he liked the “cleanness and straightforwardness of the signs.”

“These are meant not for decoration so much as they are for information,” Moran said.

“We have a cultural opportunities in other areas. What we want to do is get people to where they want to go as quickly and unobtrusively as possible, and again, with the least amount of confusion.”

Moran said he, too, would “rather see people walking around looking at our city rather than their phone.”

Vancouver, B.C.-based Tangram Design developed the signs and the Port Angeles Forward Committee recommended the final design concept last September.

The signs will be installed later this year.

The wayfinding update is funded by the city’s Lodging Tax Fund, a 4 percent consumer tax on stays at Port Angeles lodging establishments.

The tax is taken as a credit against the 6.5 percent state sales tax.

Projects and events funded by the lodging tax are meant to encourage overnight stays in Port Angeles.

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee approved a $100,000 allocation for the wayfinding system in 2018.

“Wayfinding is something every city has all over the world,” Kidd said.

“If you’re traveling in Europe, you’re looking for the big information sign.

“We just need it,” Kidd added.

“Phones are handy, but we must have signage or we’re really neglecting the 4 million people who are looking for every place that we are trying to help them find.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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