The Lake Area Chamber of Commerce hopes that in a few years when people think of Lake of the Ozarks, an image of a welcome sign will come to mind - just as many Americans envision the famous Hollywood sign when they think of Los Angeles.
Joe Roeger, chairman of the chamber beautification committee, is working with others to erect a sign on a hillside overlooking the east end of the U.S. 54 Expressway to welcome visitors to the Lake Area.
If all goes as his committee plans, Roeger said the sign would resemble the huge wooden landmark erected in 1923 in the Santa Monica hills above Los Angeles.
However, he said, the chamber will need a lot of help from the community to get the sign erected.
"The Chamber will take the lead on this project," Roeger said. "But it is going to take a lot of engineering, hard labor and money. And that is where we hope the community will come together and help."
The plan is for the sign to be made up of white, 6-foot-tall letters spelling out the words "Welcome to the Lake of the Ozarks," with smaller letters and arrows pointing to Osage Beach and Lake Ozark.
"It is going to be a beautification project," Roeger said. "But it's also going to be helpful to people unfamiliar with the area when they try to determine exactly where they are once they cross the Osage River Bridge."
Roeger's committee already is working with an engineering firm that volunteered to help, but they need a lot more help from the community before the dream can become a reality.
"MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) has already committed to letting us use the land where we want to put the sign," Roeger said. "But before we can actually begin working on it, we need to refine a lot of the project details, and we are going to need a lot of help from the community to do that."
Roeger said one of the first details to finalize is material best-suited for the sign. He said the object is to erect a sign that will require little maintenance and will hold up to weather.
He said the chamber is working with a sign manufacturer that has a process using coated Styrofoam to build low-maintenance signs. Before any determination can be made on the type of material to be used, a lot of engineering work needs to be done.
"A local engineering firm is volunteering their time to help us figure out the topography of the hill where we want to put the sign," Roeger said, "along with how much support it will take to hold the letters in place during storms, what material is best suited for the project and how much the whole thing will cost."
Roeger continued, "In short, we need a lot of help from the community. We will need fabricators, sign companies, engineers, monetary donations and just plain labor."
The biggest challenge, he said, may be how to get enough power to the site to light the sign for night visibility.
"There is no power on that hill right now, and we have to figure out how to get it there without interfering with any of the traffic that utilitizes the roadways around that hill," he said.
Roeger hopes the idea of having such sign advertising in the area will generate a lot of community enthusiasm and his committee will begin hearing from area businesses and residents soon.
"Our goal is to have the sign up and ready by the time the new Highway 242 (Horseshoe Bend Parkway Extension) is completed next year," Roeger said. "But unless we get a lot of help from the community, that is not going to happen."
Anyone interested in volunteering their expertise, donating money or helping with the project is asked to contact Roeger at 573-280-8662.