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Sign projects aim to increase county visibility

Separate St. Helens, Scappoose projects plan to spend $1,700 and $3,000 respectively on Highway 30 signage
by: Courtesy photo WELCOME — This illustration by local artist Steve Johannsen received the highest marks by the St. Helens Entrance Sign Committee and is one option to become a Highway 30 marker.

Two regional sign projects are moving forward in the hopes of raising the county's visibility to passing motorists.

In St. Helens, the ad hoc Entrance Sign Committee has completed its review of close to a dozen designs for a new city sign and its members plan to interview artists about their ideas shortly. The final sign will be located on the east side of Highway 30 and south of the McNulty Creek Bridge.

Throughout the rest of Columbia County, the Ford Institute Leadership Program has received buy-in from communities along Highway 30 for new banners to be strung up along highway-positioned light poles, from Scappoose to Clatskanie.

In St. Helens, the entrance sign project would come at a modest price tag: $500 will go to the artist and $1,200 will go toward its construction.

City Councilor Phil Barlow, a member of the sign committee, said he sees the sign as a replacement of sorts for the short lived and controversial mini-Mt. St. Helens fountain that was located on a divider island separating Columbia Boulevard and St. Helens Street. That project was intended to draw drivers down to St. Helens' waterfront.

But Kannikar Petersen, a member of the committee and an architect, said she doesn't see it that way.

'I don't know if it's comparable,' Petersen said. 'That was on a city street and this will be along the highway.'

At the committee's July 6 meeting, members discussed the merits of the preliminary designs.

Among committee members, the highest marks were given to local artist Steve Johannsen for his design, which heavily incorporates nautical themes and materials.

Another high-ranking design by Todd McDonald of Hillsboro, showed a sign hewn from stone with two pillars on each side acting as torches.

Dale Goodman, the city's public works director, cautioned committee members not to take too much stock in the preliminary designs. They will likely change as the project progresses, he said.

The city hopes to fast track the project to have a new entrance sign in place before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Scappoose agreed in May to spend $3,000 on the regional banner project, with Rainier agreeing to contribute $1,500. The project will replace the highway's current banners, which have become dull and frayed over time.

Each community will feature two versions of the banner: One will feature a fish jumping from the river near a sailboat, and the other will picture a heron gliding over mountain tops.

Petersen, who's also working on the banner project through the Ford Institute Leadership Program, said the project, planned since the beginning of the year, is purposefully taking a slow approach.

'We're taking our time to get rolling because we need to get set up first,' she said.

But Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken hopes to have the new banners up in time for the Sauerkraut Festival in September, he said. He added that his preferential timeline may be too ambitious.