New Signs: A Review

Parks management deserves commendation for (finally) putting up new signs in selected locations around the dog park and the northside nature area this past week. There is a new dog sign and a new nature sign and some new posts have been driven into the soil.

The new dog sign deserves praise because it abandons the lame “On Leash Area” language of the old signs (which, however, remain up in several locations). It now reads “Dogs on leash only.” That’s a bit more direct and more proof against canine dyslexia, which readily converted “On Leash Area” into “No Leash Area.” More direct still would be “No Dogs Off Leash,” but the “No Dogs” opener sends such a chill into the hearts that Parks management didn’t dare go there. Whether the new signage will make a dent in the number of scofflaw owners remains to be seen.

The new nature sign is an improvement over the old in that it’s legible. The old signs were so weathered that you couldn’t read them. However, the strongest text, “Protected Natural Area,” doesn’t really mean anything. The key piece of language, “No Dogs or People .. Do Not Enter,” is in small white type around a red circle, not at all prominent. What would be wrong with a strong “Protected Area: Do Not Enter,” without the cutesy art work?

So much for the face of the signs. As to where they’re posted, mystery abounds. One of the new sign sets is posted inside the area a good twenty feet off the paved perimeter trail. The post carries both a “Dogs on Leash Only” sign and a nature sign, Those two messages clash, making it seem as if it were OK to run a dog on leash inside the nature area. If the pole had been placed next to the path, instead of yards away, it might have worked, but placed deep inside the area it creates confusion.

Sign posted deep inside nature area says “Dogs on Leash Only” — contradicting the other sign on same post that says “No Dogs or People, Do Not Enter.” Worse, the “Do Not Enter” language is in small print that’s practically invisible from the paved perimeter trail (right) at this distance.

More new signs are up on the northern ridge, where lies the sensitive boundary between the dog park and the nature area. One of the new nature signs is posted next to the dirt road that bisects the nature area. That’s a proper location. But above the nature sign stands the old “Exiting Off Leash Area” sign that implies it’s OK to enter there with the dog on leash. More confusion. That dirt road is only for park maintenance vehicles and otherwise should be posted off limits.

Signpost properly placed next to maintenance road that bisects the nature area carries two conflicting signs. Top sign prominently allows exiting with dog on leash. Bottom sign (new) says “No Dogs or People … Do Not Enter” in small print.

Weirdest new signpost is up on the ridge behind a fennel grove (photo left). There’s no trail there, and when the vegetation greens up the sign will be completely hidden. What was the point?

Meanwhile no new signage protects two social trails that lead into the nature area from the ridge, see photos just below. Signage is needed at every access route into that area.

Social trail from the ridge into the nature area needs a sign. Not done.
Another social trail from ridge into nature area where sign is needed gets no sign.

Certainly, any effort at improved signage deserves applause, no matter how dubious in execution. But experience has amply demonstrated that a few signs here and there, even in spots where they are meaningful, are not enough, At the boundary between the dog park and the no-dogs nature area, only a fence will keep the peace. Parks management has been talking about a fence there for quite some time. What can the average park visitor do to motivate the authorities to progress from words to deeds?

Also awaiting action is the long-standing proposal to build a ring of blue plastic rods around the 17-acre dog park area, so that everyone can be clear about the boundary. The reason for delay given earlier was that the ground was too hard to drive the rods, and it would have to wait until the rains came and softened the soil. Well, the soil now is good and soggy. What are we waiting for?

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