Between last week and this week, a couple of things happened regarding this column.
First, my inbox was inundated with many thoughtful and interesting questions. This week, I will answer the first of many questions. The interest in this column has me all fired up. Thanks!
Many people also suggested things for me to do and places to explore in the area. I’m looking forward to crossing those items off my list.
Second, not many people suggested titles for this column. But, I did want to share with you some of the suggestions: Calling Calix, Calix Connects, Monday Mashup, Question Queue, Cow Town Q&A, Sun-Star Scuttlebutt, Ask Brianna! and Retread Merced. A couple of these are serious contenders, but I want to make sure to keep all of my options open. So I will accept suggestions through Friday. Keep ‘em coming!
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Here’s the first question I’ll attempt to answer:
Where exactly is the proof of Merced’s welcome signs?
I liked this question because it made me think of the signs I have seen driving along Highway 99, which stretches all through the Central Valley, from Bakersfield to Sacramento. I realized I couldn’t remember seeing one for Merced.
After a brief search and making some phone calls, I found there is not really a sign that says “Welcome to Merced” on Highway 99, Highway 140 or Highway 59.
There is one that looks like a billboard near the Merced/Mariposa county line on Highway 140. You can’t actually make out the word “Merced” on the sign. At one time, it may have said “Gateway to Yosemite.” It may have also said something to the effect of “Home of the 10th UC campus.” It’s a mashup of former signs falling down or torn off.
Frank Quintero, Merced’s economic development director, said there’s another one near Highway 99 and Buhach Road amid a construction zone. It needs to be replaced, he said. It’s been tagged with graffitti and is falling apart.
Karen Baker, a development associate with the city, said that sign should be replaced in the next few months.
I’m sure most Merced residents are familiar with the sign on G Street near the rail crossing between Santa Fe and 23rd Street. It simply says “Merced,” but it is of nice quality and appealing to the eye.
Throughout town, Quintero said the city has “way-finding” signs to direct tourists. Most of them are near freeway off-ramps. Many have been sun-damaged or vandalized, and the city slowly is working to replace those.
For Highway 99 travelers, Quintero pointed to the iconic neon sign on the Merced Theatre tower. He says he frequently hears comments about it from passersby.
The city hopes to see a new shopping center go up near Mission Avenue and Highway 99, which Quintero said would be an opportunity for developers to build a welcome sign that would be visible along the freeway.
Merced is home to one of 19 California Welcome Centers and represents the Central Valley. There are signs for the welcome center five miles and one mile out from the city on north and southbound Highway 99, Baker said. These signs lead to the welcome center, located at 710 W. 16th St. The welcome center does a good amount of market and advertising for the city, Quintero said.
A single entity is not in charge of funding and erecting such welcome signs, Quintero said. It could be a community-wide project in which the city partners with a service club, such as Kiwanis or Rotary.
So to answer the question, there’s not exactly a welcome sign here in Merced, but there’s one on the way.
I have enough questions to last a couple months, but I encourage readers to continue contacting me with more questions. I want to hear them. And, please, state whether or not you wish to be identified in my column when I answer your question. I will honor your request to stay anonymous as well.