More than 250 wayfinding signs that unite Northwest Arkansas are installed, and now the coordinated system is drawing statewide praise.
Five of the seven Northwest Arkansas cities involved in the project have installed just about all of their wayfinding signs, and there’s interest from across the state from people who want to know how to go about establishing their own systems. Parnell Vann, the mayor of Magnolia in southern Arkansas, is among city leaders who've asked questions about the Northwest Arkansas system's development.
"I would like to do something like that here," Vann said.
During a presentation about the development of the Northwest Arkansas system at last week’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Rogers, leaders in several Arkansas communities expressed interest in pursuing a similar wayfinding project.
“We are delighted with the Northwest Arkansas wayfinding system and congratulate its sponsors,” said Joe David Rice, state tourism director for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “This project is an excellent example for the rest of the state to follow. It's how a wayfinding sign system can and should look.”
The system, which will be expanded as new amenities and key destinations are established in Northwest Arkansas, includes Eureka Springs, Fayetteville, Springdale, Lowell, Rogers, Siloam Springs and Bella Vista. While each community’s signs have their own unique accent colors, the dark blue panels and shape of the signs make the overall look consistent.
Officials at the University of Arkansas and Bentonville first raised the idea of a regional wayfinding system a few years ago, and the region’s first wayfinding signs went up in Bentonville before the 2011 opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
A grant from the Walton Family Foundation to Endeavor Foundation, in partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Council, covered the first phase, which included about 60 signs. The entire system of more than 250 signs, funded by the cities and the Walton Family Foundation, is costing about $1.3 million.
As part of the grant terms, the cities agreed to install more of the wayfinding signs to other destinations within five years.
“It’s our expectation that the wayfinding system will always be a work in progress as there will be new destinations identified as needing to be part of the system,” said Stacey Sturner, a project manager for the Northwest Arkansas Council who coordinated the work with the seven cities, the wayfinding system developer and the sign fabricator and installer. “The goal is to keep the sign system consistent and well maintained as it grows in the coming years.”
The cities will be responsible for the system’s maintenance and expansion. A steering committee and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission will work to protect the regional integrity of the system.