Wayfinding signs in Northeast Harbor that now read “Village District” will be changed to “Shopping District.”  ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM   

New wayfinding signs approved to promote ‘shopping district’ 

MOUNT DESERT — Fourteen wayfinding signs in Northeast Harbor that point the way to the “Village District” will be changed to read “Shopping District” to make it clear that the village has a downtown area with shops and restaurants. 

purpose of the original wayfinding signs, which were installed in 2014, was to help guide visitors between the marina and Main Street. 

“But it’s not marketing what you tried to market when you bought those signs,” Micki Sumpter, director of the Mount Desert Chamber of Commerce, told the Board of Selectmen on Monday. 

“A lot of people don’t know what Village District means. I’ve had the experience working down there [at the Chamber’s information office at the marina] the last two summers where people would say, ‘Oh, you have a place to shop? We thought it was just residential.’” 

In addition to changing the 14 Village District signs, Sumpter and Public Works Director Tony Smith recommended that 10 wayfinding signs in Northeast Harbor that currently have information on only one side be replaced with two-sided directional signs. 

The company that made the original signs has quoted a price of $6,209 for the two sets of sign changes. Sumpter and Town Manager Durlin Lunt agreed that, if the selectmen approved, the town would pay $4,009 and the Chamber would chip in $2,200. 

Selectman Geoff Wood expressed concern at Monday’s meeting about the degree to which the town supports the Chamber and promotes private businesses. 

“I understand that the health and vitality of any village district is important, but that isn’t the primary purpose of town government, in my mind,” he said. “The $2,200 the Chamber is contributing to this [sign modification project] comes from the town’s contribution to their operation cost, so it’s all town money.” 

Board of Selectmen Chairman John Macauley said, “We don’t have a lot of businesses, so we don’t have a Chamber of Commerce with a big budget. So, we [the town] really do need to step in and help them out a little bit.” 

Smith said the primary purpose of installing wayfinding signs six years ago was to help Main Street businesses. 

“And a big piece of the $3 million Main Street project we’re doing now is to help improve the business climate,” he said. 

Selectman Martha Dudman said people in the town’s various villages have grappled for years with how to keep Mount Desert “a viable, year-round community with businesses that can survive in perilous times with a shrinking population. As for the signs, I think they need to be tweaked; it’s time for an update.” 

The selectmen voted 4-1 to authorize the sign changes that Smith and Sumpter recommended. Wood cast the dissenting vote. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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