It will soon be easier for the millions who visit South Carolina to find tourist and agricultural attractions along the back roads of the state.
A new program of blue directional signs pointing the way to such locations gets underway next month and the first signs should be up early next year.
The signs will be similar to those that direct visitors to services off the interstates. But these signs will have the state Parks, Recreation and Tourism or the Certified South Carolina Grown agriculture logos.
The idea is to make it easier for visitors to find their way to attractions in less-traveled areas. Such businesses might range from farms that have tours to whitewater rafting and outdoor outfitters.
Earlier this year, the tourism bureau launched a $2.5 million advertising campaign touting “Undiscovered South Carolina” to get people to attractions in rural areas. Duane Parrish, director of the state’s tourism department, has said that tourism in rural areas has already shown an increase since that effort started.
“We’re excited about this idea because one of the things we are doing at the Department of Agriculture with things like Certified South Carolina Grown is not only to encourage folks to buy local from our farmers and producers in the state but also to help them make a connection with agriculture,” said department spokeswoman Kelly Coakley.
“Agriculture does affect every area of our lives from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the houses we live in,” she said.
To be eligible for a sign, businesses have to be located in a rural area, easily accessible from a paved highway, open to the public on a regular basis and offer unique tourist or agricultural experiences.
The Agriculture Department estimates there are as many as 30 agricultural operations across the state that would be eligible, including places such as the Charleston Tea Plantation outside of Charleston.
The sign program is being administered by the state Transportation Department in conjunction with PRT and the Agriculture Department.
Agriculture or PRT must first approve that attractions qualify for the signs and the first deadline for such applications is Oct. 30.
Department approvals then accompany a sign application to the Transportation Department. An oversight committee reviews the final applications and, if approved, the business can pay the fees to have the signs erected. Signs are expected to be put up within 60 days of final approval.