In support of a digital Glen Arbor Township sign

Op-ed by Patricia Widmayer

On Saturday, Oct. 20, the Glen Lake Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Pumpkin Festival. Pumpkin carving. Games. Face-painting lady. Lord of the Gourd sculpture demonstrations. Costume and pet parades. Craft tables. Cake Walk. Pie-eating contests. And a DJ casting joyous, spooky sounds.

The Chamber reached far and wide through posters, social media platforms, press releases, newspaper ads, school announcements, and word-of-mouth. Kids and adults from across the county were invited to the festivities.

This was to be one of the first events at the new Township Park.

But Mother Nature had other ideas. Wind, rain, and cold forced a shift to the Township Hall. The dilemma: how to let everyone know? Facebook, OK. Phone calls, OK. Someone in the park, in the rain, to wave families on, OK-really.

Yet the swiftest and most accessible messaging—the new Township digital sign—was unavailable. Due to a regrettable dispute about its impact, the sign was turned off. Totally dark! Not to be used.

While a few hundred kids and adults got the word, many did not, missing one of the most creative, fun events of the season. If you weren’t on Facebook or found the notice on the Chamber’s website or received a text from a friend, you were out of luck.

Some argue that the old yellow sign, long used in front of the Township Hall to announce major events, is quite adequate. But as chair of the Holiday Marketplace, as well as co-chair of the Pumpkin Festival, I can attest to how heavy, complicated, inflexible and limiting that sign is. Someone must be willing to haul it out, find the letters and spend several hours composing. That is why it is used only occasionally. Yet, there are so many things that should be shared on a visible, adaptable, easily programmed community sign.

Not everyone reads the Leelanau Enterprise or Facebook, but they are likely to drive through town. The new digital sign is an important investment in our civic engagement and community vitality, as they have found at the school, designed to alert everyone quickly and prominently.

(Do you realize that the current means to post Township meetings is on a sheet of paper tacked to a bulletin board in the Township office vestibule?)

Think about not only the public Township meetings, but also many nonprofit offerings: Arts Center plays and concerts, Library Board’s Summer Film Festival, Book Sale and Home Tour, art fairs, races, Farmers’ Markets, community benefits, Chili Cookoff, National Park special events, and so much more. And yes, the Chamber’s Pumpkin Festival and Holiday Marketplace. We owe it to the community to turn the digital sign on immediately and share through this highly visible medium.

Contrary to the conversation at recent Township Board hearings, the heart of Glen Arbor has many large, lit signs highlighting the unique establishments. Look, for example, at the Martin Realty sign, the sizeable Leelanau Vacation Rental and Anderson’s IGA signs, Art’s Tavern with full lighting across their two buildings, and Boonedocks’ hundreds of lights and two story sign tower.

The reality is that quaint and charming has long ago morphed into distinctive, vibrant, thriving, and open with retail, restaurants, lodging and recreation for community and visitors alike. I urge that the sign be lit, appropriate protocols established for sharing the happenings of our civic and non-profit heart, and it quickly become the much-needed communications center for the town.

Patricia Ramsdell Widmayer is co-owner and manager of the Glen Arbor Bed & Breakfast and Cottages since 2001. She is events coordinator for the Glen Lake Chamber of Commerce; worked in Detroit, Lansing and Chicago before living in Glen Arbor; and holds three degrees from Michigan State.


Glen Arbor Sign question considered in committee

From staff reports

The Glen Arbor Sign advisory committee, headed by Dan Semple and comprised of nine members, hopes to make a recommendation to the Glen Arbor Township Board before the end of this year on what to do with the electronic sign in front of the Township Hall that proved controversial with the public this summer.

We’re trying to meet every couple weeks,” said Semple. “We’re trying to whittle away at our charge. What the Township Board ultimately does is up to them.”

At its Oct. 29 meeting, the committee decided by consensus that the sign should be used for the following purposes: public meetings at the Township Hall; emergency communications, and for parties that have rented the hall for events.

The slippery slope begins when a nonprofit wants you to advertise their event,” said Semple. “We don’t practically think that’s appropriate for the Town Hall.”

Previously, on Oct. 15, the committee agreed to recommend that part of the digital sign be dismantled and sold, to be replaced by “something less ostentatious.” The committee found that the digital portion exceeds the township’s sign ordinance. The committee is searching for smaller alternatives.

The committee also recommended that: a digital sign that flashes or scrolls is not appropriate for Glen Arbor. It identified four audiences for the sign: locals, permanent residents, summer residents and tourists.