Volunteer group earns national recognition for trail sign project, other accomplishments

Placing a trail sign may sound like a simple endeavor, but there’s more to it than might be expected.

While the cheapest signs might only cost $50, larger ones can be several hundred and a big sign the group bought for the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest cost $1,500. Shipping, posts and theft-resistant hardware also ran up the costs.

Signs posted on federal lands must adhere to a slew of regulations, and those regulations are different depending on whether the land in question is a wilderness area, national forest, national park or something else. For wilderness areas, especially, the rules are strict. Signs must be five-sided, made of natural materials like wood and may only point out directions — they can’t give mileages.

“We all agreed the easiest thing would be for the Forest Service to order the signs and us to just pay the bill,” said Evans.

But, before a sign could be ordered, they had to know what should be on it. This required hiking out to every trail junction that needed a sign — to scope out the area, determine where the sign should go and figure out which ways the arrows would need to point in order for the directions to be correct. Then the sign would have to be designed and ordered, and then installed during a separate wilderness trek. No motorized travel is allowed in wilderness areas, so rolling out on a mountain bike or ATV is not an option.

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