Acadia winter workshop shelters signs of summer

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — Deep inside a nondescript workshop in an out-of-the-way corner of the park, there are unmistakable signs that summer is already on its way.

Each and every weekday, a handful of dedicated craftsmen show up at the sign-making shop tucked in behind the parking lot for the park’s visitor center in Hulls Cove. There they toil all winter to handcraft the many wood signs that help guide visitors around the carriage roads and other places in the park. A rotating crew of volunteers hail from Mount Desert Island towns, Hancock, Blue Hill and beyond.

Hiking trail signs are made in another shop behind park headquarters on Eagle Lake Road.

Volunteer Kip Warren of Tremont works on a sign post in the woodshop in Acadia National Park.  PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

Volunteer Kip Warren of Tremont works on a sign post in the woodshop in Acadia National Park.

On a recent Monday morning, the outside temperature hovered around zero. Inside the sign shop, volunteers Bob Sanderson, Kip Warren, Jim Linnane and Bruce Denny-Brown still had their outside coats on as the furnace struggled to get the large garage-like spaces up to a comfortable temperature. It didn’t take long, though, for the room to echo with the sounds of hand tools and power equipment.

As Warren began using a hammer and chisel to trim up a mortise in what will be a post for a large directional sign on the Park Loop Road, Linnane, clad in full coveralls with eye and hearing protection, was quickly covered in sawdust as he smoothed a plank for a carriage road direction sign with an electric palm sander.

As projects proceeded, Sanderson regularly consulted the shop’s “Bible,” a large three-ring binder with photos, notes and maps of every one of the hundreds of signs on the 50-mile carriage road system. Denny Brown took stock of some recently completed components ready to be deployed as soon as things thaw in the spring.

“We start with raw logs, debark them, smooth them up, cut holes for the cross arms and get them ready to put them in the park,” explained Sanderson. The preferred wood is cedar, which is naturally resistant to rot.

When the crew isn’t crafting signs to replace those damaged by time, weather or the occasional act of vandalism, they keep busy with other constructive tasks. “We also do such things we’ve been asked to do such as building furniture and putting holes in rocks for fences and anything else you can thing of,” Sanderson added.

Warren has been volunteering his workshop expertise in the park for many years. “I enjoy woodworking and that’s why I do it,” he said. “It’s a chance to work with a great bunch of guys and have a wonderful time.”

Friends of Acadia provides some financial and organizational support for the sign shop effort. The park provides the facilities, materials, tools and safety training.

Once the weather warms up, all will get busy with outside duties. Most also volunteer in other positions in summer.

“There’s always plenty to do,” Sanderson explained.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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