By John Matonich
When I lived downstate, every few years a movement would start up to get rid of billboards especially those along the expressways. Many folks called them eye pollution. They felt they detracted from the beauty of the surrounding areas and didn’t feel they provided any real benefit to anyone except as eyesores.
Many times the movement would pick up speed and our state department of transportation would do a few things to limit their permitting to help ease the concerns of those not in favor of looking at them. I was never really in the camp of wanting theses billboards gone. I traveled the state quite a bit (especially heading north to Da U.P.) and always found these boards to provide some good information. Whether I was looking for the next gas station or a good restaurant to stop at for a bite, I usually could get this info from them pretty easily as I traveled.
As I drove north, I also liked them as a distraction from the heavily wooded landscape. Sure I like to look at trees, but when you are making the 550 mile trip to the west end of the U.P. from Flint, believe me you will see plenty of trees. It was nice to break it up by seeing a billboard for the “Mystery Spot” near St. Ignace or the “Yoopers’ Tourist Trap” near Ishpeming.
We don’t have many billboards here on the west end of the U.P., but there are a few and they do change quite regularly, so I can stay on top of the specials at one of our local grocery stores or if there is an oil change price drop at one of the area service stations. They also seem to come to mind when a question arises on where to get something done such as getting a computer fixed or where you might have some of the better ice cream choices when the temperature is climbing and a good cone would hit the spot.
I was listening to some of the national news on the way home from the shop the other day when they reported on a billboard in Ohio. It was put up by the local county sheriff as a pro-active way of trying to take dangerous and potentially deadly drugs like heroin and other opioids off the street. The billboards were originally put up in January and say “ATTENTION, DRUG DEALERS… Report your competition…call 330-333-1TIP.”
When the billboards were put up, the sheriff wasn’t sure what impact they would have, but felt it was worth a shot and maybe they would get one or two good cases out of them. The recent report was an update to say that the county sheriff’s tip line was being bombarded by information and they were making some real impact on the local street drug business. The report also indicated that the billboards were purchased with drug seizure money so no public funds had to be used.
Maybe billboards are eyesores to some, but given the problems we are having nationwide with opioids and the like, I think these types of billboards are eyesores we can live with.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate livin’ amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.