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City-wide Trail Wayfinding

The purpose of this project is to develop a comprehensive city-wide trail wayfinding sign system that incorporates the city’s existing brand, is attractive, aligns with cities equity priorities, and is relatively low-cost to install and maintain. The design and plan will focus on the needs of recreational users and residents using the system for transportation, commuting, and shopping.

Background

The plan will establish a sign hierarchy that applies to trails, bike lanes, pedestrian pathways, at key destinations and major city entrance points. It will also acknowledge and incorporate existing city gateway monument signs, park identification signs, city-owned golf courses, and city facility identification signs as part of the comprehensive project.

The final specification documents will define each sign type’s materials, hardware, finishes, fabrication, and installation details. This document will also detail how the maps and text for the wayfinding signs will be updated. The final deliverables will include a plan that identifies locations of proposed sign types. These locations will align with the city’s goals for increasing equitable access to the parks and trail systems by all of our residents.

Planning budgets will be established and reviewed throughout the process, including sign fabrication and installation and projected maintenance costs. It will also have recommendations on how best to implement the trail wayfinding signs in phases over several years.

Wayfinding

Wayfinding is the art and science of moving people through a space or an area using a network of tools such as identification signs, directional signs, maps, graphics, and directories. It also takes into account existing visual cues such as entrances, pathways, and landmarks. Wayfinding is related to the idea of navigation, although people typically think of navigation as using tools such as a compass, GPS, and maps. Think of wayfinding as a way to help visitors find their way around a given space. People navigate to a shopping mall, then use wayfinding signs to park and explore the site and stores.

Wayfinding for a trail system focuses on a handful of sign types used at specific locations. Maps displayed at trailheads and critical decision points orient users to the area. Directional guides point toward nearby destinations and amenities, and identification signs strengthen the sense of confidence in users that they are on the right path. The goal is to make the trails easier to follow and encourage users to explore new trails and parks. In short, wayfinding signs provide identification, direction, information, and definition for users on the trails.

As part of the plan, we investigate ways to connect users out on the trail to digital information. While many people are out on the trails to get away from technology, having this additional information available when needed should enhance the experience, improve confidence, and alert users of recent changes—such as a trail closure.

Wayfinding goals for the Brooklyn Park trail project

  • Make following the trails easy, including for those with limited English language skills.
  • Connect parks and trails with signage and graphics.
  • Connect trail users to important destinations, including schools, shopping, and light rail transit.
  • Create a system that can be applied consistently.
  • Increase rider and pedestrian confidence.
  • Increase the visibility of the trail system to residents and visitors.
  • Brand the system as part of Brooklyn Park
  • Use the signage to increase community pride and improve the perception of the city.

Resource review

The first step of this process was to collect background information that would help guide the process and decisions. In addition to a site review of the trail system itself, the team reviewed the Brooklyn Park Brand Guidelines, Three Rivers Park District guidelines, and the Blue Line Light Rail proposed wayfinding signage. Since many trails are along city streets, compliance with the county and state is critical in influencing the final design and plan.

To fully understand all potential aspects of this project, the team reviewed guidelines and recommendations from the following:

  • Bicycle and trail advocacy groups
  • Professional engineering and transportation groups NACTO and AASHTO
  • Hennepin County, MnDot, and Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The team has reviewed and continues to reference the 2015 City of Brooklyn Park Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan, looking for ways to use signage and graphics to support its goals. We also investigated and reviewed wayfinding programs from several locations around the Twin Cities Metro area and around the country, including Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Jose, St. Louis and Arlington, Virginia.

View 2015 Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan >

Community engagement

The project includes a Community Engagement Plan intended to solicit broad community input on key information regarding sign types, sign content, and the overall wayfinding plan. Part of this engagement addresses our community’s diversity and accommodates our residents’ different languages and perceptions. The team will also meet with key City commissions and others in the initial planning, review design concepts, and input on the final design before council approval. We will also consider the location of signs to ensure alignment with the city’s goals to increase equitable access to the parks and trail systems by all of our residents.

The Community Engagement and Communications teams worked together to develop a survey for residents. The survey had a total of twelve questions around the topics of sign content (information), sign types, trail usage, and how residents with limited English proficiency translate sign information. We provided the survey on paper and provided access to an online version in both English and Spanish. The survey was administered at several local events this summer and fall, sent out via email to subscribers, and published on the city’s Facebook page.

View survey results >

Next steps

Content development

  • Information organization
  • Destination criteria
  • Wayfinding strategy
  • Schematic design

Design

  • Design concept
  • Design development
  • Location planning

Documentation

  • Final design specifications
  • Location plan
  • Phased implementation plan