May 08 2012

Design Elements of the Mammoth Lakes, CA Gateway Project: The Mountains are Calling

Mammoth Gateway ProjectThe Mammoth Gateway Project is an effort to elaborate on the entrance to the resort community of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Signage is crucial for travelers and Mammoth Lakes needs wayfinding markers to help tourists get around with ease, while creating memorable experiences. The Mammoth Gateway Project is the ultimate expression of Mammoth’s desire to stick out amongst other tourist communities in the Eastern Sierras, branding itself as “the top of California.”

The new signs that are proposed to straddle the entrance to Mammoth Lakes on State Highway 203 are meant to act as a “new front door” to the community.
The two monuments will welcome visitors, giving them a sense that a new adventure is about to begin.

The graphic design of the signs spurred controversial conversations over what the text would say and the font used. Inspired by the surrounding natural elements, the contemporary welcome signs will portray a “rugged and timeless” design inspired by quarried granite and steel construction materials.  The new welcome and farewell messages are quotes selected from environmentalist and activist John Muir. Pending approval from the United States Forest Service, the welcome message will be “The mountains are calling…” and the farewell message will be “Going to the mountains is going home.” These quotes and improvements in the local infrastructure will inspire pride among locals.

Mammoth Gateway ProjectNot only will the monuments welcome tourists and instill pride in the local community, but they will help Mammoth Lakes gain industry distinction as a year-round tourist destination. Some hope that they will provide opportunities to increase marketing. During hard economic times, the monuments will become photo opportunities for visitors from around the world who will share their experiences with their friends and family. These photos will now have the words “Mammoth Lakes” right in the background.

Made possible through private/public/volunteer partnership most of the funds and services have been donated to make this project a success. On February 15, 2012 the Town of Mammoth Lakes Town Council, in a controversial move that resulted in the resignation of the entire Public Arts Commission, allocated $250,000 towards the project. Groundbreaking is expected Spring 2012.

Do you think that wayfinding and welcome signs should be funded with money specifically allocated for public arts projects?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Patricia Kent

Patricia Kent wrote for The GRID between October 2011 and October 2012. During this time she was a graduate student in Community & Regional Planning with a concentration in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. She was also a recent transplant to Mammoth Lakes, CA. Her interests ranged from political theory and public policy to sustainable tourism. A strong advocate for participatory planning practices, her studies focused on community capacity building and economic development. She believed in fostering entrepreneurship in communities. Currently, Patricia is working on economic sustainability policies that benefit both the preservation of the Eastern Sierras as well as the ever-increasing tourist population.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 at 10:02 am and is filed under Branding, Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, Government/Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


3 Responses to “Design Elements of the Mammoth Lakes, CA Gateway Project: The Mountains are Calling”

  1. Marielle Says:

    Wow. $250,000 for two signs? That is a bit steep to me, especially considering that the town is going bankrupt. It seems that the Mammoth Lakes Town Council has not adequately communicated how this project serves as ‘public art’. I think the most glaring evidence of this is the lack of any mention of any particular artist involved in the design of the project on the Mammoth Gateway website.

    Mammoth Lakes deserves more than just a “Gateway experience” with a big city price tag. I’m not confident that people would even be able to read a sign like that after several feet of snow fall around it. Will snow removal be part of the project? As far as it appearing in souvenir photos, access and parking near the sign must be considered. Will traffic be impacted? Is there adequate space for visitors to safely pull over?

    Lastly, people have to WANT to take their pictures in front of this gateway. If this is going to happen, maybe it would be better to allocate the Public Art Fund money to acquire art to install to make the gateway more of an interpretive experience. If it were me, I would stand behind the sign, use the mountains as the background for my photo, and simply ‘tag’ Mammoth Lakes as my location. The amount of ‘free’ marketing opportunities that will arise from this gateway project have been grossly overestimated in my opinion.

  2. Patricia Says:

    Thank you for your comment, Marielle!

    The $250,000 from the public arts fund does not make up the entire budget for the project which exceeds $500,000.

    I have heard similar comments regarding the lack of artist participation in the sign, and I assume that this is part of what effected the Public Arts Commission members decisions to resign.

    Your observations regarding parking, traffic impacts, and snow removal are all very interesting and have not yet been raised, to my knowledge; however, the permitting process through the Forest Service requires a period of public comment, at which time these issues may arise along with other issues including the size of the signs, materials, etc. I do agree with your comment that it should be more of an “interpretative” experience… but with our long winters, perhaps that was overlooked.

    Last night at the regular Town Council meeting, it was announced that groundbreaking should take place early in July.

    We’ll see.

  3. Dave G Says:

    The signs are awesome. Very well done. John Muir quotes are absolutely spot on. As a homeowner in Mammoth, I am proud to see things stepping in the right direction. Money well spent! Thanks.

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