The road signs that let people know they were entering or leaving Orrington were losing their luster this summer. The lettering was fading and the paint was peeling off.
So, the Board of Selectmen approved a new and unique design that shows the history and geography of the town of 3,800 residents. The signs, which look more like a work of art than “Welcome” signs were installed and unveiled Wednesday in a video posted on Facebook.
Located by the town lines with Brewer and Bucksport, the signs show a silhouette of geographic landmarks in Orrington, including King’s Mountain, local ponds, Route 15 and the Penobscot River. Farms, the railroad and tall ships, which have historically contributed to the town’s economy, also are depicted.
Dick Campbell, a lifelong resident of Orrington and former legislator who represented the town in the Maine House, and Sue Pate, who has a background in graphic design, created the silhouette. The front of the signs don’t say “Welcome,” but tell drivers that Orrington, incorporated in 1788, is the first town in Penobscot County.
Bangor, the county seat, was founded three years later in 1791. Brewer was not founded for another 24 years, when it separated from Orrington in 1812.
“I was thinking about all the places I went to in town as a kid,” Campbell said. “With the Boy Scouts, we’d hike up King’s Mountain and camp out at a nature preserve that was up there. We have a lot of ponds in Orrington where we swam and canoed.
“Farms like the Wiswell Farm were and still are an important part of the community,” he said. “That railroad was one of the richest in the nation and went to the mill in Bucksport. And, of course, the Penobscot River had the tall ships that came up past Orrington to get timber in Bangor.”
The signs also were designed to be geographically accurate, so that as people drive south, King’s Mountain is on the left of the sign and the Penobscot River is on the right. People driving north will see the mountain on their right and the river to their left, as depicted in the signs.
The 8-by-4-foot signs cost the town $4,087 and were installed by the public works department, according to Town Manager Chris Backman. Because Route 15 is a state highway, the Maine Department of Transportation had to approve the location of the signs, which took some time, he said.
The new signs mark the beginning of Orrington’s efforts next year to launch an economic development campaign for its two business parks — a 130-acre parcel off Brewer Lake Road and a 163-acre parcel on the former HoltraChem site that includes riverfront acreage set aside for walking paths and bike trails and a picnicking area.
In addition to its low tax rate for the region, the town is touting the former HoltraChem property’s railroad access, water access on the Penobscot River, and the potential for locally produced power and steam from the adjacent Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. incinerator that produces electricity from household waste.
Backman said Friday that a solar array has been approved for a portion of the Brewer Lake Road parcel.