New signs direct drivers to rural farms, attractions

  • Saturday, September 21, 2013

Travelers along South Carolina’s backroads and state highways might have an easier time finding pick-your-own farms and other authentic rural attractions when the new Tourism Oriented Directional Signs (TODS) program gears up in October. The program, housed at the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and administered cooperatively with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT) and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA), seeks to increase business for the farms and tourism attractions found off the beaten path.

“Some of South Carolina’s best experiences are nestled neatly in the hidden corners of our state, away from high-traffic thoroughfares and busy interstates,” said Duane Parrish, director of SCPRT. “This program should help people find those treasures and discover what authentic South Carolina can truly be. It also supports SCPRT’s ongoing effort to extend the benefits of tourism into our rural communities.”

“Our farms and agricultural operations with an agritourism focus are great places the entire family can enjoy. The TODS program will make it easier for all South Carolinians to connect with agriculture, an industry that touches us all. I hope everyone will look for the signs and go explore agriculture,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers.

Secretary of Transportation Robert St. Onge said SCDOT is proud to be a partner in this effort. “The transportation system serves to support economic development in South Carolina and tourism plays a major role in our economy. This program should help to make lesser traveled areas in our state more attractive to tourists.”

The process for receiving TODS signing can take several months. It requires pre-certification from SCPRT or SCDA, a review and approval from the program oversight committee and a contractual agreement with SCDOT’s contract signing administrator – South Carolina Logos.

To be eligible for TODS signing, attractions must meet certain tourism and agri-tourism criteria, including being located in a rural area, being easily accessible from a paved rural highway or the state highway system, being open to the public and staffed on a regular basis, and offering unique, local and rural tourism or agricultural experiences. For a complete list of regulations, visit www.scdot.org/doing/agritourism.aspx.

SCPRT or SCDA must certify that a business meets these requirements during the pre-approval phase of the process. Applications for pre-approval are currently available at http://www.scprt.com/our-partners/tods.aspx for tourism-based businesses and http://agriculture.sc.gov/agritourismandTODS for agri-tourism related businesses, and the deadline for submitting pre-approval applications is Oct. 30.

The SCPRT or SCDA pre-approval letter must accompany the official application when it’s submitted to SCDOT. The first submission deadline for these applications is Nov. 30. Subsequent deadlines will be posted on the web site.

All applications will be reviewed by the oversight committee as required by Section 57-25-820 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. The oversight committee, which is chaired by SCDOT, is scheduled to meet in January and July of each year. All projects approved by the oversight committee can enter into a contractual agreement with South Carolina Logos and pay all fees. Signing then will be fabricated and installed within 60 days.

For more information on TODS, contact Marion Edmonds at medmonds@scprt.com or 803-734-1370.

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