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New street signs guide visitors

BEKAH ENGSTRAND/MANITOU MESSENGER

Dani Larson
February 28, 2013 • 741 views

After 138 years of anonymity, the St. Olaf College roads finally have names.

The most observant students have probably taken note of the campus’ newest additions. Bright gold signs now decorate St. Olaf’s street corners.

The final result of a nearly two-year-project for campus improvement, the street signs were put into place over interim break. With names such as Norway Valley Road, Windy Lane and Founders Drive, the streets signs add a splash of color to a presently gray campus waiting for spring.

The street signs arose, in part, to address a serious problem on campus. With the absence of street signs, emergency dispatchers were having difficulties reaching students in need.

The dispatchers’ lack of familiarity with campus buildings made landmark-based directions confusing and ineffective in time-sensitive situations. The phrase “follow the street that passes behind Larson Hall” means nothing to an ambulance driver from Owatonna and can delay assistance to a student in need. The simple solution of adding names to campus streets addresses this problem and will hopefully minimize it in the future.

The college had also been concerned with the inaccurate representation of the campus on Google Maps. When Google came last spring to photograph the college, it became apparent that a lack of street names was causing confusion for the mappers who did not know how to navigate St. Olaf’s nameless streets.

If an international company with professional mappers was having difficulty navigating the streets of St. Olaf, visiting students were probably struggling as well.

In response to raised concerns, President David Anderson ’74, along with many other campus administrators including the provost and assistant vice president for facilities, formed a group called The President’s Leadership Team. The “PLT,” as Anderson likes to call it, was the small task force in charge of inventing names for the street signs. Anderson acted as point man on this small, but important, campus project.

According to Anderson, it was important to “get a small group together … and get the signs up quickly” due to the safety concerns associated with not having sufficiently marked streets. Efficiency was the main goal of the PLT, but they were also charged with the task of inventing the street names.

Anderson expressed the group’s concern that the names be “respectful of the place where we are and unlikely to create issues” in the community. The group avoided using names of important Oles to prevent hurt feelings. The street names describe the areas of St. Olaf they intersect, further familiarizing their location on campus.

Anderson said that the student body can expect more campus improvement projects such as this one in the near future. He addressed the recent speculation surrounding the concrete blocks poured outside many of the buildings throughout the fall, which will eventually become signs naming buildings in the interior of the quad.

“It is a hospitality thing,” Anderson said, adding that students take for granted the knowledge they have of their own campus.

All of these projects aim to make St. Olaf campus an increasingly user-friendly place to be.

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