Long-term project produces Squaw signs | SierraSun.com

Long-term project produces Squaw signs

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunDave Ferris, Mike Harlow and Jason Armstrong of Weidner Architectural Signage install a long-awaited sign alongside Squaw Valley road last Wednesday.

A collection of shiny new signs has cropped up in Squaw Valley, delighting business owners who have pushed for the project for nearly a decade.

The sign project began in 1999 when county officials and locals realized the need for better direction for tourists. The signs will be this summer.

“This project is [about] ten years in the making, I’ll have you know,” said the Squaw Valley Business Association’s President Liz Dugan.

The project was spurred by the 1999 Squaw Valley Master Plan, according to Ron Treabess, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association’s director of community partnerships and planning. The plan revealed the need for an informational sign system that helps visitors navigate the area.

“We did not have great signage here in the valley,” Dugan said. “People would have to stop at the fire station to ask directions.”

The two-phase project began by renovating the “tower of nations,” originally built for the 1960s Olympics, but also installed a new “tower of the valley,” said Michael Gross, committee chair of the sign committee. Both towers, completed in 2004 at a cost of $150,000, stand at the highway entrance to Olympic Valley.

The second phase includes four 15-foot-tall signs planted throughout the valley to help motorists and pedestrians find their way. All signs are now in the ground except for one, Gross said. The project, to be completed by summertime, will enhance the visitor experience by addressing 90 percent of visitor’s questions, he said.

“The signs are for that first-time visitor coming to the valley,” he explained.

After working for Squaw Valley Ski Corporation for 13 years, Gross said he sill gets questions like ‘how do you get to the ski resort.’ He predicts the information presented on the signs will cut down on visitor’s frustration and hopefully benefiting the local economy.

“It does [benefit the economy] if the focus is toward that first-time visitor; it provides a much better experience. Think about those places you’ve been where you get lost and it might ruin your trip,” he said. “I think it brings us to that standard that people expect from the resort,” Gross said.

Besides Northstar at Tahoe, which completed a privately-funded sign system last year, Squaw Valley is the first Tahoe-Truckee community to take on such a project, Treabess said. He added, the project will be the prototype for a similar, yet larger project in the Tahoe-Truckee region.

Squaw Valley’s project cost $338,000, Treabess said, and was funded entirely by money from the Transient Occupancy Tax, charged to visitors during hotel stays in the area.

The project took 10 years partly because of the permitting process through the county, Gross said, explaining that certain inconsistencies within the Squaw Valley Master Plan needed to be addressed before officials would sign off on the project. The permit for phase two was submitted four times, he said.

Officials involved are excited to see their efforts come to fruition.

“To see these signs come up makes you want to cry,” Dugan said.

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