The evening town hall meeting for tourism brought out a gathering of over 15 people on Thursday, Jan. 7. As residents, local museum members and local club representatives joined business owners and event organizers to introduce themselves by explaining their own personal interest and concern for Hawthorne and the Mineral County signage, it was apparent that moving forward has a broad interest.
Mike McNeill, Director of the Convention Center/USO building explained that the current grant available to the tourism group was a 50 percent matching grant that had to be completed and turned in by Jan. 15.
“This Projects Relating to Tourism” grant had been discussed for at least four months, but now it’s time to be moved on, as certain grants only come up every two years and the town is ready for better signage.
McNeill shared, “This particular grant has restrictions and limitations which final decisions must be based on. The inclusion of a sign with the Garden Club and the Lions Club to complete a town entry sign by McDonald’s would not meet the criteria of bringing a tourist into town. This grant is more about giving a traveler time to prepare for a safe stop into Hawthorne.”
The signage discussed at the meeting would be specific to the grant, which would have to be on county land and possibly placed in Mina or Walker Lake, giving advanced notice to what was ahead for a driver to investigate in Hawthorne. The shared amount would be paid from the tourism board funds, with up to $7,500 for one or two signs and a match of the same amount from the state, as the State of Nevada has an entire state budget of $180,000 to give out for this rural city signage grant. Later it would be decided that the tourism board would not apply for the grant.
The discussion from the group ranged from actual sign ideas to the frustration of losing travelers due to the by-pass alternate highway. Other comments garnered questions about the Nevada Department of Transportation concerns, parking issues downtown and the confusion of what would be best to highlight on a billboard. Local sign expert, Wade Barton from Sign City, stated that the best way to get your money’s worth is to keep a sign at eye level, placed in an easily viewed location, with a simple message, remembering that a driver only has seconds before passing your sign.
“You have a quick second to draw someone in with your message, so the busier the sign, the worse it will be for a driver,” Barton said. “Electronic signs are good and they have their place, but they are expensive and honestly the messages change so quickly, a driver may not catch one sentence from it as he speeds by.”
The attendees were open to the professional opinion of Barton, knowing that too much of a good thing could confuse a possible tourist into not stopping. County Commissioner Paul MacBeth said that location is vital to a good sign, so possible suggestions such as the old Babbitt field may be a possibility as it was county owned. The basis of location had concerns because the grant required control of the land in which the sign was set so a private land owner couldn’t remove it or destroy it, thus wasting the investment of the grant money.
Finalization of the actual grant paperwork will be done, as this forum of local participants assisted in formulating a plan which will benefit the future of Hawthorne’s success.