Are You Heading to the BIG CITY or Jumping on the Highway?
A massive green wayfinding eyesore looms over your head as you head north on Routes 4 and 5, aka North Main Street, towards downtown White River Junction. It's held up by an equally terrifying metal truss system. Beyond the intersection in both directions more truss systems and signage lurks.
There are apartments with a smaller footprint than this sign.
One would forgive tourists for assuming they should brace themselves for traffic jams and double parked vehicles as they head down the hill into what appears to be a very big city. For those turning left, they're probably collecting their toll money, expecting to merge with a three lane Interstate 5. Meanwhile, the unfortunately unobtrusive "Welcome Center" sign, tucked to the right, is easy to overlook. Have you even seen this sign before? Are you, in fact, sure I didn't photoshop it in? It only looks as large as it does in my photo because I'm standing on the sidewalk quite close to it and was actively looking for it.
Continuing down North Main Street and bravely committing to enter what one must assume is a metropolitan labyrinthine downtown based on the signage, intrepid visitors are greeted (or not, if they miss it) by a small sign just before Church Street on the right and the Tip Top Building on the left:
It looks as large as it does in the photo because I'm practically on top of it.
I am as guilty as anyone, driving around town assuming that because This Is How Everything Is, it means that This Is How Things Must Be. A letter to the editor in the Valley News a few months ago tipped me off to the possibility that our village driving landscape could and should be different. The letter writer pointed out how unattractive these large highway signs are and how out of place they are supposedly "welcoming" visitors to White River Junction. I was a little taken aback. Now that you mention it, I thought, why do we allow such ugly signs to set the tone for what's re-blossoming into a beautiful, vibrant downtown New England village? Can you imagine approaching downtown Woodstock or the Lyme Green with a sign large enough to challenge Fenway's Green Monster? I suspect their Zoning Department would have some thoughts about it.
The magic of Photoshop! Truss systems? What truss systems?
Behold a little fancy photoshopping. The Green Monster of White River Junction is gone. The steel trusse are gone. The Route 4 and Route 5 signs are tucked together on the median. And the historic district sign is relocated and scaled up 163%, more or less. And, not as an afterthought, I added a sign that says "WELCOME" because that's what we should say to our friendly tourist visitors.
I am proud of our village and appreciate the many years of hard work and vision of the entrepreneurial business owners and developers in the district. Let's allow the renaissance to creep up the hill by setting the tone properly with a charming welcome sign, so visitors can eagerly anticipate the charming village on the other side of the intersection.