“Finding Rosendale” project signage installed

Rosendale Town Board member Jennifer Metzger with signmaker Howard Slotnick. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

It has been a long time coming, but motorists passing through downtown Rosendale and pedestrians and cyclists on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail may find that it was worth the wait — especially if they’ve been trying to figure out where to park their car to access the Rondout trestle, or how exactly to pop downtown for a cold beverage in mid-hike. “It,” in this case, means the splendid new signage installed over the past week as the culmination of the Finding Rosendale initiative.

The process got started way back in 2013, when local officials applied for a six-month planning grant from the Ulster County Transportation Council. That funding was granted, enabling the town to brainstorm potential sign designs that would contribute to the “branding” of Rosendale for the purpose of stimulating tourism, as well as help people find their way around better. At a public design charrette in October 2014, all interested local residents were invited to pick their favorites from among a selection of fonts, graphics, color schemes and sign shapes, and to prioritize what they wanted most from the “wayfinding” project.

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A clear consensus emerged: Rosendalers loved the concept of turning the trestle’s crisscrossed truss design and nostalgic rusted-iron color into style icons for a town where visitors can enjoy history, scenery, the arts, outdoor activity and indoor comforts all in one outing. Detailed images of the trestle were distilled down into a simple design that evokes the Rosendale skyline as surely as a swooping line with a tower sketched on top conjures that of New Paltz. A set of coordinated graphics and a plan for placing the signage were adopted in 2015.

Then the town had to scratch up more funding to bring the plan to fruition. A grant application to the Hudson River Valley Greenway Conservancy in 2016 was funded, with additional contributions coming from the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT), the Rosendale Chamber of Commerce and the Mohonk Preserve. Several kinks still remained to be worked out: For instance, Routes 213 and 32 being state highways, the town was restricted to the use of what councilwoman Jen Metzger, who spearheaded the project, described as “standardized” New York State Department of Transportation designs that “lack character.” “You can’t use custom designs on state roads,” she explained. But the planning group found “workarounds” by cooperating with downtown businesses, such as mounting a Finding Rosendale sign on the side of the building that houses the boutique Vision of Tibet in lieu of a street sign. “Welcome to Rosendale” signs were placed slightly off the road in the “gateway” zones at either end of Main Street as well.

And now the work is finally done. Howie Slotnick of Slotnick Signs & Designs in New Paltz, the contractor who manufactured the signage, has mounted the “wayfinding” signs in strategic spots around town, such as the intersections of Keator Avenue with Route 213/Main Street and with the terminus of Mountain Road. Homeowners near the trestle, who have complained for years about out-of-towners grabbing all the parking spots in front of their homes in order to access the rail trail, are breathing sighs of relief, as visitors now can find clear and simple signposts to the official trailhead parking areas on Binnewater Road and at Willow Kiln.

Thanks to the Greenway grant, planners were able to expand the original scope of the project to include signage on the rail trail itself, for the benefit of hikers and bikers. Even after the WVLT constructed a footpath from the southern end of the trestle down to the street, it wasn’t immediately apparent from above how to access downtown businesses. Now, folks enjoying the trail for active recreation can easily find user-friendly guidance as well. Considering the grandiose plans that state, county and regional tourism and economic development officials have in mind for linking all of New York’s rail trails and river crossings into one gigantic recreational network, it’s a development that should please many a business-owner in Rosendale and well beyond.

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