Every year, 11 million tourists descend on Nashville, pockets brimming with cash for boot-shaped knickknacks and pink cowboy hats.
But frankly, they often don’t know the difference between Music Valley and Music Row, and they’re forever getting turned around on Fourth, wandering the giant construction zone in search of Ryman Auditorium.
What they need is a good map.
Last week, Mayor Karl Dean unveiled a new program — the “Walking Way-Finding Program, Nashville’s New Sidewalk Map” — that should help with things, even if nobody can possibly remember the name of it.
Color-coded maps, complete with helpful “You Are Here!” stars, will be placed throughout the city to guide our visitors to destinations downtown, in North Nashville and on West End.
Long-time Nashvillians may remember the mid-’90s walking-tour project, a turquoise line painted on downtown sidewalks that pointed historically curious walkers to places of some renown. The blue-green trail markers have faded in most places, but vestiges of the self-guided ramble through Nashville’s past remain in the incongruous turquoise silhouettes meant to bring that history to life.
This project is a bit more ambitious, and it makes miles more sense.
The pedestrian signposts are just the start. Phase II will include directional signs visible to drivers on the secondary roads — “The Music City Center is over there” — and the third phase adds similar signage to the interstates.
It’s an idea past its time, frankly, and it seems odd it took this long to occur to anybody. In a city where the primary tourist district is the same as the primary business district, no civic-minded muckety-muck tired of doling out directions to Robert’s Western World on his way back to the office thought to pony up
for some permanent cartography?
Plus, there’s no rule that says we permanent-types can’t take a surreptitious look at the signs, too. Because it’s OK to admit you’ve been lost downtown. Nobody will think you’re a tourist — so long as you don’t wear that pink cowboy hat.