“It’s sort of a whimsical, not-to-scale map,” said Ellen Burns.
Books on the Common gave her a perspective, and a map depicting a corner store view of Ridgefield that will be available to the rest of town — and folks from farther off.
“At the bookstore, being so centrally located, and open seven days a week, we get an enormous number of visitors who are stopping by on their way someplace, asking what to see in Ridgefield, where to eat. And with the fact we have places like the Playhouse and the Aldrich and ACT of Connecticut that draw people from all over to town, we spent a lot of time pointing, and doing hand-drawn maps, and looking up hours on websites,” Burns said.
“Lots of towns I visited over the years had maps, they had visitors guides, that helped identify places to visit while you’re there, places to sleep and dine,” she said. “I thought Ridgefield, because of all the wonderful places to visit — the arts, and businesses — should have a map like that.”
She took the idea to the town’s major business organizations.
“I made a pitch for their support, and were all extremely enthusiastic, and willing to help financially.
With Books on the Common committing $1,000 in seed money, Arnold Light and John Devine of the town Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC), Jennifer Zinzi of the Chamber of Commerce, Mary Jones of Downtown Ridgefield, and Wayne Addessi of inRidgefield agreed to sponsorships of $500 or more.
After business organizations, she approached the town’s major commercial landlords. Then fund raising turned to non-profits.
“I selected 16 major cultural and arts organizations which have physical locations and requested support from them,” she said.
Burns is about halfway to her projected $12,000 budget.
The maps of other towns Burns had seen were artistic, depicting local attractions, points of interest along major roads, and notable geographic elements.
The best combination of charming and useful, she felt, was a map of Lennox, Mass. — a town in the Berkshires that, like Ridgefield, combines natural beauty with cultural and historical assets.
She sought the artist.
“I tracked him down. His name is Bart Arnold,” she said. “He lives in Lennox. He’s done several of these for Lennox, but also Norfolk and Fairfield, Connecticut.”
She contracted him, got an estimate, and he came to get a look at the town.
“We spent half a day walking,” Burns said. “We started at the West Lane Inn. We went down to Ballard Park. We took pictures. We incorporated everything on Main Street and the side streets that, basically, is the central business district.”
Then, the rest of town.
“We got in the car and went south, starting at Weir Farm and tried to drive past all the significant sites that should be in a visitors map — the bark park, Boys and Girls Club, The Hickories, Great Pond, the Ridgefield Golf Course. We even drove by ACT of Connecticut. We went to Halpin Lane to see the Guild of Artists and the Theater Barn,” Burns said.
“The purpose was to orient Bart to the geography of Ridgefield, and take photos of many of the places that would be featured on the map — artistically rendered by Bart.”
Emails flew back and forth as the artist sketched and refined the map, with Burns’ feedback. “All the details that need to be included,” she said, “street names, natural resource identification, the two state parks, rivers.”
Among the maps mini-illustrations are major arts and cultural attractions, museums, historical sites and organizations.
Listings on back
“On the back side, I’ll do categories,” Burns said. “Each will get their listing of the names, their coordinates on the map, street address, website address and phone number. If I have room, I may do a descriptor for all the not-for-profits.
“The restaurants and businesses will get their name, address, website, phone number — in exchange for a contribution,” Burns said.
Business listings will cost $100.
“I think most of them are going to want to be on here, storefront businesses and restaurants,” she said.
The back may also have images from town by local photographers Michelle Williams and Chris Burke who both “take amazing photos,” Burns said.
Her mock-up of the back has a little history: “Ridgefield was first settled by English colonists from Norwalk and Milford in 1708… “
The map will be 18 by 24 inches, foldable into 4 by 9 inches.
“It’ll be printed on glossy paper, full color,” Burns said.
“I plan to have the printer print a small quantity of just the map on high quality paper that could be mounted or framed — to raise additional funds, basically.”
Within her $12,000 budget, Burns will be able to pay the artist, get some “graphic assistance” and have 5,000 copies of the map printed.
“It will be downloadable as a PDF on the town ECDC website,” Burns said.
Organizations like the Chamber, Downtown Ridgefield or inRidgefield will be able to offer it on their websites.
The map is a non-profit venture. All finances go through a “Visitors Information Fund account” set up through the town Economic and Community Development Commission and administered by the town finance department.
Burns hopes to leave some of the initial $12,000 budget for future modifications and reprinting.
People interested in learning more about the visitors map may contact Ellen Burns through her bookstore’s website, firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 203-431-9100.
Burns continues to do fund raising and seek listings for the project herself.
“I wanted to keep costs as low as possible,” she said.
“The arts organizations, the historical societies, the businesses will benefit from this map.”