Helping visitors to the Rushford Peterson Valley find their way was a big topic of conversation at the most recent Rushford Economic Development Authority (EDA) meeting on Wednesday, March 8, at the Rushford City Hall.

Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber executive coordinator Jen Hengel spoke about the need for “wayfinding” signs.

“After much back and forth between the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), myself, (Rushford) Public Works and others,” Hengel said.

“We have some wayfinding signs coming that will include our brand on each one. We have certain approved locations, and the approved design that MnDOT allowed.”

When she first began this project, Hengel wanted to have some nice signs that were somewhat artistic and would go on electric poles or different places downtown.

However, MnDOT said that wouldn’t work because Rushford sits right on a state highway so the guidelines are different than a county road.

“Because we need those signs for motorists and not just pedestrians or bicyclists, they have to be readable at all hours,” she pointed out.

“Each letter must be six inches tall. The signs they approved look a little more institutional, but at least we get to include our brand on each one.”

Some of the approved locations for wayfinding signs along Highway 43 include Creekside Park, Creek Trail and one by the new Rushford-Peterson school campus.

Hengel said the dimensions of the sign designs were a little different in size. She said each of the brand signs will be 42 inches wide by 21 inches high. However, the approved wayfinding signs will be much bigger.

“You’ll note the sign at the bottom (under the brand sign) is 69 inches wide,” Hengel said. “So, we’re talking very large signs. They’ll be very visible. So, this one is 69 in. wide by 3 ft. high. And on top of that, you’ll have your 42 in. by 21 in. brand sign. At seven feet from the bottom of each sign to the ground; these are very large signs.”

Hengel wanted to make them as small as possible but those were the specs the MnDOT designers came back with. They can only be 14 characters for each destination, and there can only be three destinations per sign.

Signs also must be placed 100 feet before the upcoming turn and be at least 50 feet away from each other, making placement a little more challenging to meet the guidelines.

“That’s going to be huge,” said board member Mark Honsay.

“They’re more like billboards,” said board president Tom Driscoll.

Hengel said this was the reason she wanted to make the presentation to the EDA and the Rushford City Council, to make them aware of what the requirements will be if they want wayfinding signs.

“There are wayfinding signs in Spring Grove that aren’t that big, and they’re on Highway 44, and they’re the size of a street sign,” Honsay said.

Hengel answered, “I don’t know if they put them up on their own or possibly the regulations changed. They emailed me the Forest Lake signs that were done two years ago, and they had a five-inch font, so I’m not sure if they got theirs in before regulations changed.”

There are a couple locations in which the city could use smaller signs. Hengel said they would also like to put up signs for Magelssen Bluff Hiking and possibly for the local canoe access point on the Root River.

The board expressed its support for the project and for the community assets the signs would advertise.

Board member Terri Benson said, “When you get further into town that size becomes an issue. When you’re outside of town, it’s not as much of a concern.”

Banners were discussed as an alternative, but there is more of a cost as they wear out.

Hengel intended to make the same presentation to the Rushford City Council, but said she anticipated the same concerns from the council. She’s going to contact MnDOT with some of the EDA’s concerns.

Root River Trail Towns cleanup

Hengel announced the upcoming Root River Trail Towns Cleanup that is set for Saturday, April 22.

Board member Scott Ledebuhr wanted to know who was eligible to come down and help with cleanup.

Hengel is one of the people coordinating the event, and she said anyone can come help, even high school kids.

“Absolutely! Last year, we had the 4-H, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes all participate in it,” Hengel said. “The Rushford Lions Club also served lunch to everybody down at the depot, and that’s planned again for this year.

“We like to use older kids for the trail cleanup, because we go all the way from here to the Houston Bridge,” she added, “and then halfway to Whalan, because that’s the Rushford Peterson Valley part of the trail. Anyone with questions can just contact me.”

Other business before the board

The board then went through business items that included a review of loan status updates with two local businesses – G-Force and Hypersonix – as well as approved a forbearance request for Loken’s Inn in Rushford.

The board looked a proposal between Bluff Country, LLC and the city regarding a purchase of property at the end of Himlie Drive.

David Drown Associates, Inc., the city’s public finance adviser from Spring Valley, sent city administrator Tony Chladek an email proposing changes to the agreement between Bluff Country, LLC and the city that would be more lucrative for the city.

Rushford city clerk Kathy Zacher spoke to the board, saying, “We’re going to collect extra taxes based on the way the deal is set up.

“The developer gets the land for a cheap price, and then builds the houses. People who live in them pay normal taxes on the land, which we’re getting zero taxes on those parcels right now.

“Now, if someone pays taxes, we get to keep our normal share and put that money back into the pot where we gave the cut-rate price on the land, so we basically pay ourselves back for giving a good rate on the land price.”

Next meeting announced

The next regular meeting of the EDA is at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12. The EDA meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Rushford City Hall.