Susan Roth’s design for a Port Alberni welcome sign. Roth collaborated with Len Ronkainen from Nanaimo Sheet Metal on the design. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Susan Roth’s design for a Port Alberni welcome sign. Roth collaborated with Len Ronkainen from Nanaimo Sheet Metal on the design. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Graphic artist’s metal sign design draws interest from Alberni council

Councillors split on choice for new welcome sign to greet visitors

Several Port Alberni artists have submitted designs to the city for a new welcome sign.

Last fall, the City of Port Alberni put out a call to all artists to submit ideas to the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce for a new “Welcome to Port Alberni” sign.

Chamber CEO Bill Collette presented six concepts to Port Alberni city council on Monday, Feb. 8. Overall, council was impressed with a design from Beaver Creek resident and artist Susan Roth.

Roth’s proposal is for a metal “Welcome to Port Alberni” sign with depth, rather than a flat design. The proposal includes images of a forest and a bear and is made from powder-coated aluminum. Her proposed sign sits at around 15 feet tall. She worked with Len Ronkainen from Nanaimo Sheet Metal to come up with cost and engineering estimates, at just under $10,000.

Collette pointed out on Monday that there will most likely be some additional costs for installation of the sign.

“All of these [proposed] signs would have similar additional costs to them,” he added.

The city allocated $25,000 in its 2020 budget for the design and construction of a welcome sign. To date, approximately $5,700 has been spent.

In a later interview, Roth said her design was inspired by the natural landscape of Port Alberni.

“When I thought about Port Alberni, I thought about trees—big, beautiful trees,” she explained. “And the bears—people come from all over the world just to see our black bears.”

She said she chose the powder-coated metal over a traditional wood sign because of its versatility and the fact that it is easy to maintain.

“Wood is so hard to take care of,” she explained. “And aluminum is very durable. It’s also recyclable.”

Roth said she is not expecting payment for her design, adding that she is thankful to the city for the ability to purchase clean water outside of city limits. She is also open to making changes to her design.

Mayor Sharie Minions said Roth’s sign was her favourite of the proposals.

“I think that it is stunning,” she said. “It is somewhat different from a regular sign. It stands out to me. I think it’s something we could carry throughout the community.”

Councillor Cindy Solda expressed concern about the metal in the structure becoming tarnished or rusted over time, but Minions pointed out that city staff will be looking into maintenance before the city moves forward with a sign.

“All of these signs are going to require maintenance,” Minions said.

The concept of a new welcome sign in Port Alberni has been a controversial one. Currently, a “Welcome to the Alberni Valley” sign is posted on the side of Highway 4 near the city’s entrance. However, this sign is actually located on Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District land. It was installed in the mid-2000s, a project of the late Cherry Creek area director Glenn Wong.

Another “Welcome to the Alberni Valley” sign used to be located outside of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre. This carved wooden sign was first erected at the chamber in the 1980s and stayed there until the new visitors’ centre was built in 2011. The city is currently looking into having this sign installed somewhere as a piece of public artwork, so people can stop and admire it.

Council agreed on Monday to review the proposed designs and come back to the next meeting of council (on Feb. 22) to discuss next steps.

“This is going to be the look of our community,” said Solda. “We don’t have to make that decision today.”

Collette has proposed placing the new sign at the corner of Johnston Road and John Street (near the entrance to Walmart).

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