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New Byway Route Markers introduce new identity along Canalway Byway

New signs are being installed to mark the route of the Ohio & Erie Canalway America's Byway. Their distinctive style represents a new chapter in the development of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, which shares two complimentary national designations: A National Heritage Area recognized through an Act of Congress in 1996 and a designated National Scenic Byway as awarded by the Federal Highway Administration in 2000.
The signs introduce a new name and wordmark that will serve both designations and integrate a new branding campaign for the National Scenic Byway program that has renamed the byways - America's Byways.

Signage will play a paramount role in establishing the identity of the Ohio & Erie Canalway - a mutual identity shared by the National Heritage Area and the America's Byway. It will serve visitors by providing a seamless system of directions, information and interpretation.

Canalway Signage will lead travelers from adjoining freeways to the designated America's Byway; signage will mark the America's Byway from Cleveland to Dover/New Philadelphia; Vehicular Wayfinding Signs will point the way to affiliated destinations - natural areas, historic districts, museums, and parks; and upon exiting their cars, visitors will find Canalway Kiosks with local information and site interpretation.
The interrelationship between the America's Byway and the National Heritage Area is best expressed in terms of its functionality: the America's Byway serves the National Heritage Area by providing auto travelers a "route of existing roads" that deliver visitors to the affiliated sites that celebrate the collection of natural, cultural, historic, scenic and recreational assets within the boundaries of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.

In 2002, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Association (OECA) invested $340,000 to develop a Canalway Communications Plan, which introduced a new and shared identity package for the National Heritage Area and the America's Byway. The shared marketing name would be "Ohio & Erie Canalway;" it included a presentation of the name as a wordmark. The Communications Plan outlined a Canalway Signage Plan and recommended a family of sign products that would serve both the Heritage Area and the America's Byway.

In 2005, the OECA invested an additional $175,000 for the Canalway Signage Plan to convert the concept into design/build drawings for a subset of the sign products. Included were (1) Byway Route Markers, (2) Vehicular Wayfinding Signage, (3) Confidence Marker, (4) Informational Kiosk, and (5) Trail Signage. The Canalway Signage Plan followed a prescribed path from concept through alternative analysis to final design. The process involved a steering committee with representatives of the four county engineers, regional park districts, major cities, attractions, and small townships. Beyond the steering committee, all 58 local jurisdictions and 80 affiliated attractions were engaged throughout the planning exercise as was the general public.

The Canalway Signage Plan provides a seamless experience for visitors by providing directions from the parallel freeways onto the America's Byway. The byway is then appropriately signed with Route Markers that provide the necessary visual directional signage to follow the America's Byway from Cleveland to Dover/ New Philadelphia. Along the byway, a Vehicular Wayfinding Signage System will provide information of attractions and destinations prior to the final decision point (e.g. - turn left here) so that drivers can navigate the Canalway with an assurance that they will find their destination. Once the driver turns into the entryway of a destination, they will encounter a Confidence Marker which sports a "tag line" that is associated with its prime visitor experience -categorized by the compelling resource it offers (e. g. - at an historical museum - "Discover American History"). After parking, visitors will encounter a two-sided Canalway Kiosk, which provides on one side the overarching storyline and information on the 110-mile Ohio & Erie Canalway, while the second side provides a site specific story that affiliates it with the Canalway and includes the local interpretive storyline. In the future, at sites with connection to the Towpath Trail or a connector trail, visitors will find a Trail Wayfinding/Directional system that guides them to destinations along the trail system.

The final sign designs featuring the distinctive Ohio & Erie Canalway wordmark were met with overwhelming approval and commitments to implement. Given the extent of the signage and the associated cost, it was determined that implementation would be phased. Ohio Canal Corridor submitted two Scenic Byway Grants on behalf of the Cuyahoga County Engineer's Office to begin implementation and was awarded both grants totaling $756,000 in 2006.

The Byway Route Markers will lead the implementation process, followed by a Vehicular Wayfinding Beta Test along a 20-mile portion of the America's Byway within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the first wave of Informational Canalway Kiosks at Canalway destinations. Additional Vehicular Wayfinding Signage and Kiosks will follow in subsequent phases.

Some of the America's Byway route is already used as a primary route to a number of identified attractions and therefore contain those attraction-based signs. Part of the Vehicular Wayfinding formula is to replace any current directional signage to these attractions with the Canalway Vehicular Wayfinding signage, avoiding duplication.

The initial Scenic Byway Management Plan recognized the role of Canalway-related signage as instrumental in the establishment of a regional identity. It also considered the impact of other signage on the visitor experience and produced solid recommendations which remain pertinent to the future of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.

The two non-profits, Ohio Canal Corridor and the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, encourage communities to adopt guidelines so that individual signs and the coordination of signs are designed to convey a quality message and to enhance the visual appearance of a community. Communities should avoid signs that are haphazard and ill placed, which assault residents and visitors with chaotic and confusing messages that are difficult to comprehend. With a coordinated sign program, signs will not obstruct scenic views and evoke the wrong message but promote a community's historic, recreational and other tourism-related intrinsic resources.

Recognizing the identity of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, a coordinated sign program for the America's Byway will strengthen local character through the establishment of local ordinances, regulations and design guidelines to complement all byway communities generating a regional identity that reflects its history and culture as well as enhancing the visitor's experience.




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