Hermiston plans wayfinding project

HERMISTON — Visitors to Hermiston will have an easier time finding their way around town in the future.

The city is working on a “wayfinding” project that will provide a coordinated effort to direct people to what consultant Glen Swantak calls “Hermiston’s little jewels” through signs, maps and other features.

“Think of it also as marketing,” Swantak, of the wayfinding consulting firm MERJE, told attendees of a public meeting about the project on Wednesday. “Maybe people aren’t going to the destination, but they might drive by a sign for the farmer’s market and say, ‘I didn’t know they have a farmer’s market.’”

Hermiston Planning Director Clint Spencer said the project started out as an idea for the urban renewal district to use its funds to create matching signs downtown pointing to features, such as the library and senior center.

“As we started working we realized we really need a comprehensive design plan for the whole city,” he said.

The project would use a mixture of elements. Current, mismatched signs at features, such as city parks, would be replaced. New signs for motorists would point the way to attractions ranging from schools to trails to government buildings, such as the courthouse or DMV. Maps and kiosks would be posted to orient pedestrians. Arches or other decorative features would beckon people to a clearly defined downtown district, and the city’s seven municipal parking lots in the district would be numbered and clearly marked.

“Currently, they have nothing,” Swantak said of the parking lots. “I don’t even know if I’m allowed to park there. So, we will label them as public parking and include any regulatory information.”

The signs would all fit the same decorative theme. Swantak presented three potential design themes — one inspired by the city’s “Where Life is Sweet” logo on the water tower, one with a more historical feel and one with an outdoor theme that uses natural elements, such as stone and wood.

Beyond signs, MERJE would also help the city create a more coordinated effort to help visitors find their way around Hermiston through other means, such as providing user-friendly, up-to-date maps on websites and at the chamber of commerce.

“When you talk about wayfinding, people always talk about signage, but it starts before people get there,” Swantak said, adding he wanted messages to visitors “all talking in the same language.”

Excerpts Jade McDowell | East Oregonian