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Shelburne Council Continues to Mull Giant Letters


When the Shelburne council addressed the matter of Jack Downing Park on May 10, they also discussed the possibility of adding new signage to the park, similar to what is seen in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.

“That sign is huge,” remarked Shelburne’s Councillor Walter Benotto.

According to the Chief Administrative Officer’s report, the letters at Nathan Phillips Square are 9.8 feet tall, with the entire design spanning 72 feet. Toronto’s sign can be controlled via wi-fi and create approximately 228 million combinations of colour. The replacement costs for the monument, experienced in September 2020, were roughly $760,000.

“When I proposed the sign of Shelburne in the front, I wasn’t thinking we would have seven-foot-tall letters sitting there as that would obscure the park almost completely,” contended Councillor Benotto.

The CAO’s report proposed reducing the number of letters used by shortening the name, similar to what Collingwood did. Collingwood’s sign shrunk the municipality’s name to “CWOOD.” This would save costs and take up less of a footprint. ‘S-Burne’ and ‘Shel’ were some of the off-the-cuff ideas put forward by councillors. The report also recommended that they review additional sites and costs through the recreation and parks master plan, with further considerations in the 2022 draft budget.

“Not all parks are like the downtown park,” stated Benotto. “If you put it at Fiddle Park or any other park in town, it becomes almost invisible.” 

Councillor Benotto explained how Jack Downing Park was chosen as the location for the signage because it is the ‘focal point’ of the town. The councillor further delineated how the objective of the attraction was to drive passersby to downtown businesses by tempting them to pull over and stop at the park. The signs in Ottawa and Collingwood were highlighted by Benotto as examples of the concept of these sorts of attractions pushing traffic to stores. 

“It doesn’t have to be seven feet tall lettering,” pronounced Benotto, mentioning that three-foot-high letters may be enough. “It’s just something that lights up, and lets people stop and look at it.” 

Denyse Morrissey, Shelburne’s Chief Administrative Officer, shared how she had never seen these sorts of attractions ‘smaller than her height’, and in her experience, this type of signage is installed at a larger park. The intention is to entice visitors to take pictures with the big lettering and post the photos on social media. Morrissey mentioned that Fiddle Park might be appropriate, depending on how the park was determined to fit within the town’s overall strategic plan, as Shelburne council may resolve to try to make it a ‘focal destination.’ 

Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson backed up Benotto in specifying that the location for the signage should be Jack Downing Park. Anderson shared how the idea for the large lettering originated from a trip that he, Councillor Benotto, and Mayor Wade Mills went on to Ottawa.

“It was in the main area, not some sort of obscure area of Ottawa, and that’s what really drew the intention,” maintained Anderson. 

Councillor Lynda Buffett reinforced the idea of another site, intimating that the Heritage Committee has plans to have a historical mural on a wall facing Jack Downing Park.

“I think having large letters, no matter what size, is going to take away from the mural,” asserted Buffet, “because on its own, that will be a very prominent location for anybody going by.” 

Benotto seemed confident that there would be a way to incorporate a form of lettering and the mural at Jack Downing Park so that the features would complement each other.

Shelburne council resolved to review the matter further and to have staff produce concept drawings showing different sizes and layouts of signage. These renderings could include variations of park placement and short-forms of the town’s name. 

References – Shelburne Council Continues to Mull Giant Letters

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