ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Every Monday and Wednesday morning in the winter, as many as a dozen volunteers, nearly all of them retired, can be found in the park’s sign shop tucked away in the woods near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.
They are making the directional signs for Acadia’s 45 miles of carriage roads. Or they are making signs for hiking trails. Or making or refinishing benches. Or building sawhorse barricades for the law enforcement rangers. They’ve even built wooden walkways for bog trails.
“They help out every department in the park; they do it all,” said David Schlag, the Acadia staff member who is coordinating the sign shop projects this winter.
“Some of them were contractors or they worked for builders, so I learn a lot from them.”
The volunteers’ sign shop work started eight or 10 years ago when the park employee who had been making the carriage road signs retired. A few of the volunteers who did trail work in the park decided that making signs was something they could do, as well.
“The signs get old and have to be replaced,” said Jim Linnane a long-time volunteer. “That’s all we did at first, just making new carriage road signs.”
Schlag said the large sign posts typically last 15 to 20 years. At least a few of them need to be replaced every year.
“It’s mostly because of weather; they deteriorate,” Schlag said. “Occasionally something will happen where one breaks.”
The sign posts come into the shop as cedar logs. The volunteers strip the bark, shape the top end of the logs into points so that they shed water and then spend hours sanding them.
“Sometimes the logs are finished, sometimes not, depending on the areas they’re going to be in,” Schlag said. “In really shady, wet areas they’ll rot faster.”
Other volunteers work on the directional signs, which are later attached to the posts, that point toward Witch Hole or Aunt Betty Pond or wherever else someone might want to go. Jean Bell, a retired nurse, uses a router to create the letters. Then they are sanded and painted.
All of the metal that is part of the signs, including the chains that are both functional and decorative, are fabricated in the sign shop.
“Nothing on those posts comes from the outside; it’s all done here,” said volunteer Don Bell.
“It’s all done to the original specs, too, from when the carriage roads were first constructed,” Schlag said. “Down to the sixteenth of an inch.”
The new carriage road signs will be installed in the spring.
Friends of Acadia covers the cost of the materials for the signs and other items made by the sign shop volunteers.
This past Monday was Lorelle Friend’s first day as a sign shop volunteer. She was helping to refinish the benches that sit outside the Hulls Cove Visitor Center from early spring to late fall.
“I volunteered over the summer for the trail work,” said Friend, who lives in Florida but plans to move to Mount Desert Island.
“I’ve been hiking here for a long time, and it’s really fun doing things for Acadia. It’s a wonderful place.”