Grant to help fund comprehensive signage along Augusta Canal

A vandalized sign stands along the Augusta Canal near the end of Milledge Road, not far from Lake Olmstead Stadium. The project will put up new signs with a unified look throughout the heritage area.

A $91,500 grant supplemented with local matching money will be used to expand and overhaul signs throughout the Augusta Canal Na­tion­al Heritage Area’s network of trails, access points and visitor sites.

“Right now, what we have are signs that have gone up as needed, for various reasons and at different times,” said Rebecca Rogers, the canal authority’s marketing director. “We also have signs that have been vandalized.”

A request for qualifications was issued Monday as the first step in identifying a professional firm to “provide planning, design and installation guidance for a comprehensive signage program” that will include everything from directional signs from major highways to trail-
specific signs to guide visitors to amenities.

“This will create a more cohesive, visual impression,” Rogers said. “There would be directional and other signs that establish a sense of place to help people understand the trails and how to use them properly.”

The heritage area, designated by Congress in 1996, includes the oldest continuously operating hydropower canal in the United States. The waterway has been owned by the city of Augusta since its construction in 1845. The heritage area program is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

Last July, the canal authority received a commitment of $91,500 in Federal Highway Administration grants that are administered by the Geor­gia De­partment of Natural Re­sour­ces’ Rec­reational Trails Pro­gram.

The project’s estimated total budget is $175,000, with the balance provided from the canal authority’s other resources.

“The project is expected to include four primary trailheads with multipanel kiosks which will include maps, interpretive/educational information, safety rules and trail ratings,” the request for proposals said. “Additionally, four secondary trailheads and approximately 100 trailside signs with directional and emergency information are envisioned.”

The project would include signs at all parks and facilities, boat docks, access points, the Interpretive Center and trails including the Towpath, Mountain Bike Dirt Trail, New Bartram Trail, Historic Trail, Lake Olmstead Trail and Riverside Nature Trail.

The canal authority will accept proposals from design firms through Feb. 21, after which the applicants will be evaluated for a possible contract award.

The scope of the project includes a provision allowing the improvements to be completed in phases if costs are too high to complete all at one time.

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