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close this bookTeaching Conservation in Developing Nations (Peace Corps)
close this folderAppendix D: Signs, labels and guides
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View the documentA suggested nature trail guide for Guatopo national park, Venezuela
View the documentSource materials - Appendix D


SIGNS have three purposes:

- to inform (direction, distance, facilities)
- to interpret (explanation, names of natural features)
- to notify (regulations, warnings)

The use of information and interpretation signs may seem to be similar, but there is an important difference. An information sign direct the visitor while an interpretive sign explain what the visitor is seeing or hearing.

Signs are used at the conservation center to direct the visitor to it, to identify it and to give information about it.

Sign 1

On a nature trail, signs give direction, distances and regulations or warnings.

Sign 2

Sign 3

Signs and their supports should be of natural materials of the region, such as wood, bamboo or stone, to blend with the environment. The style of lettering should be the same for each sign. Signs should be varnished to protect them from rain, humidity, sun, etc.

The following suggestions for making trail signs can be adapted to your needs and to local supplies.

1. Select good quality dry wood (or other suitable material).

2. Cut wood into desired sizes, depending on the amount of lettering or art work planned.

3. Sand the flat sides and edges until smooth, if you are using wood.

4. Apply undercoat enamel (or varnish) to sides and edges. Dry and apply another coat of enamel or varnish. Smooth with fine steel wool or sandpaper.

5. Trace letter pattern. Ink or paint the letters.

6. When letters are dry, apply two coats of waterproof varnish.

7. Prepare your sign posts by soaking them at least 48 hours, completely, or that part which will be in the ground plus 15 cm above ground, with 100% creosote, or 50% creosote and 50% used crankcase oil, or 100% used crankcase oil, as a general preservative. (Used crankcase oil may contain chemicals which are harmful to cattle). Pentachlorophenol is used as a water repellant solution, and can be mixed (5%) with used crankcase oil.

8. Place your sign posts in well-drained holes by digging the holes an additional 25 cm deeper than post bottoms will be. Fill with 25 cm of gravel, then bury posts at the desired depth and apply the treatment preservative around the base.

9. Mount the sign with screws on posts. A center post mount 5 cm x 5 cm is good for small signs; a hanging post is good for larger signs (use screw hooks in a 10 cm x 10 cm post).

An alternate method of lettering is to trace a letter pattern on cut, sanded wood, then cut out the letters with gouging tools to a shallow depth (.3 cm). The cut-out letters can then be painted a contrasting color (white paint on dark wood). A good way is to put the paint into a plastic bottle with a screw-top spout and squeeze the paint into the letters. When the paint is dry, apply two coats of waterproof varnish.

Sign 4

Sign 5