Finding your destination in Morristown is one thing. Finding reasons to linger afterward is another.
A new study aims to make it easier for travelers to find their way around Morristown and Morris County. Area tourism officials and businesses are hoping better signs–maybe with some digital enhancements– might persuade visitors to stay longer.
“The system now is primarily for the vehicular network. We want to make it more pedestrian-friendly, with local kiosks,” said Leslie Bensley, executive director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau.
The bureau has hired a Philadelphia consulting firm, MERJE, to perform an $80,000 “wayfinding” study to recommend ways to make destination signs more legible and visually appealing. The money includes a $50,000 grant from the Garden State Historic Trust Fund; the rest was raised by the bureau at an April gala.
Representatives of government, business and cultural organizations met with MERJE’s John Bosio at the Morristown Club this week to share their frustrations with the present sign system, which dates to 1999, and to suggest improvements.
Morristown Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman said visitors have a hard time finding Morristown Memorial Hospital.
Some 18,000 babies are born there every year, she said, and that means parents must venture to Morristown’s town hall for birth certificates.
Better signs might encourage these people, and other hospital visitors, to explore Morristown while they are here, she said.
Morris County is among three sections of the state identified for a possible pilot project under the state wayfinding master plan, which was created by the nonprofit group Celebrate NJ.
Such a project would implement proposals from the MERJE study, and would require a second round of funding.
“This is about how people get from point A to point B, but in a broader sense it’s about creating a brand and identity for the community,” said John Bosio, who has done signage studies in Newark, Jersey City and Camden.
At this week’s meeting he showed examples of signs in Asheville, N.C.; Augusta, Ga., and Fredericksburg, Va., places that have a blend of historical and natural attractions similar to Morris County.
The MERJE study, expected to finished by next spring, also will examine how websites, mobile applications and interactive signs might be incorporated into a pilot program, John said.
Kiosks in Tampa, Fla., list special phone numbers. When you send a text message to those numbers, you receive a reply with information specific to that location, he said.
Butler County, Ohio, has an easy-to-navigate cell phone application with information on destinations, including driving directions.
“It’s all about the experience people have when they come here, and helping them find their way–whether it’s a mobile app or a website,” John said.
“We’re not just running around putting signs up. We may come out of this and say that the thing they should do is update the (tourism) website.”
Organizations represented at the meeting included the Morristown Partnership, the Morristown Parking Authority, Morristown’s Community Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, the Stickley Museum, the New Jersey Historic Trust, the National Park Service, Acorn Hall, the Morris Museum, the Morris County engineering department, AAA and Morristown Airport.