The Basalt Town Council is willing to spend $25,000 for a signature sign at the town’s main entrance — as long as it doesn’t look like something from the Colorado tourist hotspot of Estes Park.
The council voted 6-0 this week to hold a competition to find the best design for what is being billed as a “monument sign.” The council also said it would allocate as much as $25,000 for creation of the piece.
The idea for a design competition was sparked after a special committee, dubbed 82 or Bust, proposed a specific sign at the Basalt Avenue roundabout near the Basalt Store gas station. The sign features an intent fisherman in a cowboy hat wrestling to haul in a trout caught on his line. Two intersecting slabs of Peach Blow sandstone from a historic quarry up the Fryingpan River Valley form a “V”. The angler is featured in the open space of the “V”. The proposed lettering says, “Welcome to Basalt, Confluence of Rivers, Recreation and Culture.” Basalt would be in large, block letters. The sign would stand about 12 feet from the depicted river bottom to the top of the angler’s fly rod. The width was 9 feet.
The sign would greet motorists as they pull off Highway 82 at the main, albeit circuitous, entrance to Basalt. “Wayfinding” signs would be placed to pull traffic around the corner of Basalt Avenue and onto Midland Avenue and then guide motorists past the Basalt post office and the Roaring Fork River to the downtown. A common complaint by merchants and residents is that the core is too hard to find for infrequent travelers to Basalt.
The proposed signs combined the graphic artwork of Gaard Moses, the stonework of Tom Even and the glasswork of Shannon Muse. They donated their time to work on the design.
“We envision the monument sign at the roundabout to not only grab the tourist but also to launch a public sculpture acquisition program to complement our already extensive and beautiful gardens,” said a letter to the council from Heather Smith, president and CEO of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce, and Lynne Mace, chairwoman of the sign committee.
In a meeting between the council and the sign committee, Councilman Rick Stevens said he liked the idea of a monument sign at the roundabout, but he didn’t like the proposed sign. Basalt has a lot to offer other than fishing, Stevens said, mentioning skiing, hiking and cycling. It also has a strong connection to the outdoors, with Basalt Mountain looming over the town. He suggested the monument sign should be “more organic” than proposed, possibly incorporating basalt rock. Above all, the sign must be unique to Basalt and not something that would fit in anywhere, Stevens said.
“We’re not Estes Park. We’re Basalt,” Stevens said.
Councilman Glenn Rappaport thanked the sign committee for its work but questioned the appropriateness of the proposal and how town residents would receive it.
“This should be one of the ideas,” Rappaport said. “We’re going to have a lot of opinions. We always do.”
He advised the council to hold a design competition.
“I just think we’re going to catch a lot of heat one way or another,” he said, adding that any decision on a sign design will have critics. At least if a design competition is held, the town will be in a defensible position.
“I would really like to see this thing opened up,” Rappaport said.
The other council members went along with the idea of offering $2,500 for the design competition. Mace argued that the money isn’t needed. The “prize” for winning the competition is getting your design featured on the town’s sign, she said. The council stuck with the cash prize.
Members of the town staff and sign committee will set the parameters of the competition and launch the effort later this summer.