Props to a Parkway

by Eli Strull

Studies show most people don’t read signs, but those that do will be the better for it at Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was up there a few weeks ago and, being an interpreter, I pay attention to interpretive signs. Each one I saw impressed me.

Interpretive writing is not easy. I have done it for years and it is still challenging to be compelling, brief, make an impact, and tell a story. It becomes even harder when the audience includes anyone who visits a park and reads or can be read to. Still, the signs I saw did everything right. They had place-based context, interesting information, connections to people’s personal lives, and messages that were relevant and could appeal to a wide range of people. They were also eloquently worded and easy to understand. Attractive and accessible design elements tied it all together.

It is easy to take a good sign for granted, but when you have millions of visitors and no other way to reach most of them, a strong interpretive element could make the difference in meeting the goals of a site’s mission. It certainly enhanced my visit and I am grateful for it. Thank you, National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, U.S. Forest Service, and all others involved in the effort.

While looking for pictures of the signs because I didn’t have a camera with me, I found this link about what I saw. It turns out they were installed just a year ago. I have been there many times over the years and it did not occur to me they were new. I think this is a testament to their ability to fit into the landscape—another important design feature!

Sign at Graveyard Fields

One of the signs, as pictured in the Mountain Xpress article linked above, courtesy of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

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