Michigan Municipal League November/December 2023 Review Magazine

Putting Fennville on the Map: Bilingual Wayfinding Signs

–By Liz Foley

FENNVILLE pop. 1,745

Visitors might notice there’s something a little different about finding their way around Fennville these days. With its brand-new bilingual wayfinding signs, the quiet little city on the southwest coast of Lake Michigan is doing more than just marking its territory: it’s sending a message loud and clear that diversity is welcome here. The project was the top award winner in the Consumers Energy Foundation’s 2023 Put Your Town on the Map competition for innovative ideas to help Michigan’s small towns grow and thrive. The 37 new signs include four welcome signs at the north and south approaches to town and four kiosks, three in public parking lots and one in the downtown pocket park. The remaining 25 signs provide bilingual directions toward parking, landmarks, public institutions, and the downtown district itself. The idea originated with DDA member Dawn Soltysiak’s observation that out-of-town visitors often told her they didn’t realize a city even existed within the region’s wineries and orchards. The idea struck a chord. “Downtowns tell the story of who we are, but if people can’t find the downtown, it’s hard to share that story with others,” said City Administrator Kathryn Beemer. “So, we set out to make our city more accessible to visitors, but also to our existing community.”

“ Fennville has a large, thriving Spanish-speaking community, and while many of these Spanish speakers are able to read English, having signage in their native language fosters a feeling of comfort and acceptance. –Teresa Kline, Library Director ”

The Review

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