As the summer tourist season heats up, tourists are finding it easier to visit the Liberty Aviation Museum.
Giving in to pleas by museum officials and supporters, the Ohio Department of Transportation put up signs on Ohio 2 a few days ago, directing both eastbound and westbound motorists to take the Ohio 53 exit to visit the museum.
The new brown and white sign joins others directing visitors to Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport and to the Lake Erie Shores and Islands West visitor center.
The museum had opened in 2012. It boasts a new building and exhibits that include a B-25 Mitchell bomber and a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, both kept in flying condition. Visitors can view the restoration of a Ford Tri-Motor aircraft, the vintage 1920s plane that sported three engines, one in the nose and one in each wing.
A few months ago, after the museum's exhibits had matured, museum officials figured they were ready for more attention and began agitating for signs on Ohio 2. Ohio Department of Transportation officials informed Jeff Sondles, operations director of the museum, that the museum hadn't proved it draws 100,000 visitors a year.
An article in the Jan. 29 Sandusky Register said that Sondles begged to differ, and that officials such as state Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, were working to try to get the decision reversed.
The Register article helped the museum's cause, Sondles said.
"Once the story got out in the news, I think a lot of pressure came from the right areas," he said. "I'm still very happy ODOT saw the light."
He said the signs already are having an effect.
"We've got a lot more people coming out now," Sondles said.
"It can't hurt when people are driving along to see that," said Larry Fletcher, executive director for Lake Erie Shores & Islands in Ottawa County.
It will help people looking for the museum to find it, but it also should snare folks who didn't even know about the museum, he said.