It’s been quite a run here at the ‘Ol Thing this time around, and forgive me if you’ve been bamboozled by that headline into believing, in hope or dismay, that this news editor is saying goodbye. I’m not going anywhere.
Instead, this is about reclaiming our visual image as a quaint, beautiful community by advocating that we get rid of the ever-growing number of signs and banners attached to Central Park sidewalk rails and stuck in public right-of-way nearby.
National Hot Rod Association fans must feel right at home with sign after sign plastered along the rails, much like the advertising that lines their beloved drag strips.
However, Main St. isn’t a drag strip, despite the long-dead tradition of “dragging Main” on Friday and Saturday nights. Banners on rails and hand-scrawled signs on wire frames stuck in the ground on the bridge are tacky obstructions to one of the most beautiful small town views in central Kansas.
Perhaps a little reminder of city ordinance is in order:
“It shall be unlawful for any person, business or corporation to place, stand or maintain any portable sign on any street, area, sidewalk or public way within the city limits of the City of Marion.”
That includes frame-mounted signs, which several along the park rail have been. As park rails are de facto frames for banners tied to them, in my book those fall under the prohibition, too.
Of course, we’re potentially opening another can of worms here by bringing up the sign ordinance: What about sidewalk sandwich boards and temporary pole banners businesses use for spot advertising? We’ll leave it to the city to decide how those fit within its existing ordinance; for now, let’s keep the focus on that stretch of public property between the post office and the museum.
Who’s to decide what signs go up on the park rail and what signs don’t? What aesthetic standards should apply? Can they be there for months at a time?
Thankfully, I believe there’s an easy answer to those questions and more.
City ordinance says those signs are illegal. It doesn’t matter what they’re promoting. Frame-mounted signs, whether in their own frames or attached to park rail frames, are illegal. City council can revise the ordinance if they wish, but they’re also responsible for seeing the one already on the books is enforced.
We know that the natural beauty of Central Park is one of the most endearing and defining features of our quaint little town. Our city crews do a fine job of making it look its best, particularly when we’re expecting hoards of visitors.
We shouldn’t spoil the charm by hiding it behind a cluttered signscape.
For about a century and a half, folks have had a pretty good idea about what’s going on in town, and I’m proud to say we’ve been a part of that at the ‘Ol Thing almost all of those years. No one’s going to miss a Charlie Daniels concert or miss out on a succulent homegrown tomato if the signs go away.
And if we get the signing off, perhaps someone might like what they see well enough to stop for a few minutes, hours, or even a lifetime.
It’s time to dump the dragstrip décor and bring back our postcard-perfect, beautiful, quaint, charming Central Park view.
— david colburn
Last modified Sept. 21, 2017