By STEVE MOCARSKY, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice
WILKES-BARRE — You can see them in tourist spots like New Hope and Jim Thorpe, and bigger eastern Pennsylvania cities like Bethlehem. And now, you can find them in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The Diamond City Partnership has teamed up with several organizations located in the Luzerne County seat to have “wayfinding signs” — each one bearing the logo of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor — installed along some city streets.
The brown signs with white lettering point visitors to destinations such as King’s College, Wilkes University, the county and federal courthouses and the Osterhout Free Library.
“The whole idea is to make it easier for visitors to find their way in the downtown,” explained Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership.
“We’ve known that this has been needed for a long time. But the project was always dependent on having an entity to take the lead, and also on raising the money to make it happen,” Newman said.
The Diamond City Partnership — Wilkes-Barre’s alliance for downtown revitalization — is shepherding the project, which costs about $25,000.
“As the downtown management organization, this is a project that falls squarely within our wheelhouse, and it’s something that is an agenda item on our current downtown action plan. It’s something we’ve wanted to accomplish for a long time. Again, though, it’s a real group effort,” Newman said.
“The bulk of the money is coming from the entities … that are getting the benefit of the signs,” he added.
Project funding also includes a $5,000 challenge grant from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Pocono Forest and Waters Conservation Landscape Program.
Newman describes the Delaware Lehigh National Heritage Corridor as a “linear state and national park that runs the length of the historic route that brought coal from mine to market in eastern Pennsylvania.” It encompasses all of Luzerne, Carbon, Northampton, Lehigh and Bucks counties.
Within the corridor is the D&L Trail, which stretches 165 miles southeast from Wilkes-Barre — the corridor’s northern terminus — to Bristol, near Philadelphia.
“Along most of that route, they have now constructed the D&L Trail that allows hikers, walkers, bicyclists to traverse that path,” Newman said. “They’ve finally gotten to the point where the trail has been completed as far as Wilkes-Barre Mountain, and they’re going to be finishing the trail down into the valley.”
The northern section of trail will end in downtown Wilkes-Barre, but the exact path from the Seven Tubs Trailhead to the downtown has not yet been decided.
“The goal is to allow someone theoretically to be able to bicycle or hike from the River Common in downtown Wilkes-Barre all the way to Bristol on one trail,” Newman said.
Newman said downtown Wilkes-Barre’s wayfinding sign project is important both to the city and to Delaware & Lehigh because “it allows us to brand downtown Wilkes-Barre as the northern terminus of the D&L corridor in advance of the completion of the trail and really allows the D&L to plant their flag in downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
Newman said a total of 20 signs will be erected — 16 vehicular wayfinding signs meant to assist drivers, three pedestrian blades similar to signs on the River Common, and one kiosk that will be placed in front of the Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau on Public Square.
So far, signs have been placed along South River Street. The City of Wilkes-Barre’s contribution to the project is providing the labor to install the signs. The goal is to get them all up by the end of the year, Newman said.
Only one noticeable glitch has occurred so far — a sign placed just north of South River Street’s intersection with West South Street directs visitors to the “federal courthouse.” Newman said the sign company will correct the spelling error.
He described the signage project as “modular. We can expand signage as needs dictate and as finances dictate. So, for example, let’s say we get a new business downtown and add a sign — it’s all going to be consistent.”
Part of the project includes removing signs that are old and dilapidated or are no longer serving a useful purpose and need to be replaced. There also will be secondary panels on some signs directing visitors to public parking.
“I think we’ve got enough people coming in to go to shows at the Kirby, to go to the schools, looking for different destinations, and it’s about time that we had a sign system in place that guided people from the outskirts of downtown to their destination,” Newman said.