Ag-Tourism Sign Program Launched

SNOW HILL — A new state program has the potential to grant more exposure for certain businesses in Worcester County, though the County Commissioners are skeptical about the level of cost versus reward.
The commission also made sure to enter the program with the condition that the county is not on the hook for peripheral costs.
Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting, explained the Agricultural-Tourism Signing Program to the commission via a memo.
“Basically, this new program establishes a procedure whereby local agriculture tourism operation that meet a set of very stringent criteria can have directional signs installed along state highways, only after the county has agreed to participate in the program,” Tudor wrote. “If the facility is not located on a state highway, county participation will involve fabrication and installation of ‘trailblazer’ signs along the county roadways to direct the public to the facility.”
There are some clear benefits to jumping aboard the program, added Lisa Challenger, director of Tourism for Worcester.
“I am in favor of Worcester County’s participation in the MD Ag-Tourism Signing Program. This program is very similar to the Tourism Attraction Signage Program which I am very familiar with,” she wrote in a memo accompanying Tudor’s.
While the signs could be a way to encourage visitors to explore important agricultural tourism locations, the associated costs would be hefty.
“However, the criteria and cost can often make it very difficult for various entities to participate,” Challenger said. “Having said that, since Worcester County has relatively few ag-tourism operations, it could be helpful moving forward for future operations.”
The cost for a small mainline sign, 84 inches by 40 inches, would be $1,529.50. A large sign, 108 inches by 40 inches, would run $1,656. Overlay would cost an additional $300 and there would also be a $250 application fee for either sign. This would put the price tag for either sign over $2,000.
Likewise, the criteria to qualify for the ag-tourism sign program is extensive and includes being open for at least six hours a day, four days a week, for six months out of the year. Additionally, the facility needs to have either public events, an educational tour or both as well as on-site restrooms, a permanent, all-weather structure, on-site parking and the sample or sale of local agricultural products, among other requirements.
“Considering the stringent criteria for the facilities and the high price of the state application and sign fees, up to $2,000 for application and a single state sign, I don’t expect we will see any significant interest locally should the County Commissioners agree to participate,” Tudor wrote.
The commission agreed but also felt that it was only fair to allow any local qualified businesses the chance to participate in the state program if they could afford it.
“It’s up to the person, to the individual,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley Tuesday. “If they want to pay that much money, then let them go ahead and do it.”
The rest of the commission felt likewise, though Commissioner Judy Boggs criticized the state for making the program so costly.
“Forgive my cynicism but it looks like another money grab,” she said. “Two thousand dollars for permits to put up a sign to benefit your business and the state says that they want to be more business friendly?”
Though the commission was inline supporting joining the program, one caveat that was included in the motion was that the county not be liable for any costs associated with the “trailblazer” signs located on county roads and that any initial costs are reimbursed.