Everywhere a sign

Some seasonal residents of Mount Desert have begun a petition drive to voice objection to a series of way-finding signs recently erected in the community. Some complaints have focused on the number of signs; others on their appearance.

There is no question that the unpainted pressure-treated posts and bare backs of many of the signs, particularly on the way into Northeast Harbor, are not attractive. Officials have stressed the appearance will improve when the signs are finished.

As far as the number and placement of the signs, it is easy for those intimately familiar with the island to forget how confusing it can be for visitors to find their way around. With much of the island forested, there are often few distinctive landmarks to cite when providing directions.

In Acadia National Park, crews have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to how far apart they should place stone cairns to mark the hiking trails. Crews are asked to imagine they are inexperienced hikers from out of state worried about becoming lost in thick fog. “How close would you want them to be?” is the guiding question. Like road signs, cairns are most helpful to those least familiar with the correct route. Any system of public thoroughfares, whether roads or trails, should be marked so those with minimal path-finding abilities can navigate them.

Even in this age of global positioning system (GPS) devices, not everyone relies on a computer screen to get around. Having signs reinforce the quick decisions that must be made at each intersection is the neighborly thing to do.

We are all tourists somewhere. An ordered system of information signs extends a hand of welcome to those wishing to experience the beauty of this special place.