BAYFIELD – The Bayfield Town Board earlier this week weighed how exactly to boast about community achievements, wading through the complicated politics of recognition placards on U.S. Highway 160.
The town has posted recognition signs since at least the 1990s for athletic accomplishments, later adding local service organizations. Trustees and staff see the achievement placards as ways to recognize community members and advertise the town to passersby on the highway. However, when there is limited space for recognition signs along the highway and a lot of community investment, what is the town to do?
“We’re essentially trying to toot our own horn,” said Mayor Matt Salka with a laugh during Tuesday’s Town Board meeting. In an interview, he added, “We are a small town that’s accomplishing big things. ... We have to try to promote and come up with a policy that acknowledges that in a fair way.”
Trustees entered potentially controversial territory as they debated policy details, like who would pay for the recognition placards, how to maintain the placards and which recognitions should be given space.
“Community members really want those signs to be up,” Salka said, recalling when the school district raised community ire after almost removing their recognition banners in 2015. “It’s important to them, and it is a huge accomplishment.”
Because many of the recognitions come from school achievements, most of the trustees agreed that it might be best to let the schools “boast their own accomplishments,” Salka said.
Trustee Kelly Polites recommended the recognition placards go away entirely, suggesting the town depend on social media and websites to advertise the town and promote community accomplishments.
Trustee Ashleigh Tarkington and other trustees advocated against cluttering up the new town entry sign, completed in August, which stands less than 100 yards from the achievement placards. The town built the sign as part of a rebranding effort recommended by a 2015 community economic development assessment by Downtown Colorado Inc.
Tarkington suggested limiting the recognitions to public service organizations, like the Lion’s Club, the Rotary Club and the Pine River Library. Tarkington also mentioned a Chamber of Commerce sign, of which she is vice president.
While the limitation would move some community recognitions to other locations, allowing all recognition requests with limited space would lead to issues about choosing who to include and for what period of time.
“I’ve heard people come up and say, ‘Well, he got an accomplishment, why not me?’” Salka said.
The trustees recommended that community members pay for their own signs designed by a specific company to meet specific requirements. The town would allow four to five signs for one year, then the community member or group could keep the placard.
The town will hold a public hearing before voting on a motion to decide the recognition placard policy. The exact date will be listed in Town Board agendas.
“I hope to see some people out there to help us out with this direction,” Salka said.