Out of sight, out of mind — it’s a simple concept we’ve encountered since childhood, but one the downtown area of Columbia Falls’ Nucleus Avenue has felt sharply for almost four decades.
But now, after a concerted effort from local business owners, the downtown district has prominent signage directing the millions of visitors who stream along U.S. Highway 2 into the heart of the city.
“Thirty-eight years of no signage for our downtown district of Columbia Falls,” said O’Brien Byrd, owner of O’Brien’s Liquor and Wine and the JIM gym. “As ludicrous as that sounds, it is fact.”
The new signs, complete with landscaping, cost more than $40,000, Byrd said, but were paid for entirely by the businesses in Columbia Falls through an effort by the Columbia Falls Community Foundation.
“It is 100 percent funded by local businesses. Not the city. Not the state. No grants. Not the county — 100 percent by businesses here locally in this town,” he said.
Though they seem like an obvious addition, getting permission from the state Department of Transportation to use the land — which is technically a DOT right-of-way — took two years.
Now the city has permission to build and landscape there, Byrd said, with mulch, topsoil, bushes, and lighting expected in the next week. After that, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the first Monday in June.
Byrd said the signage was just one more indication that Columbia Falls is on the rise.
“We see the revitalization in downtown,” he said. “We’re adding more amenities to the community.”