Signs of Concern

On a first walk to the park after a two-week vacation away, I find that the City has installed a couple of new signs about park regulations.  These signs are glued to the pavement in the middle of the path near the parking circle at the end of Spinnaker Way.  Here’s one that warns against feeding wildlife:

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By “wildlife,” it obviously has the ground squirrels in mind, leaving the sea gulls and other birds out of the picture.  The sign mentions a $100 fine.

The second sign concerns dogs and leashes:

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This sign doesn’t mention fines.  Two more copies of this sign are glued to the asphalt on the way to the northwest circular path.

Not 30 yards from one of these signs, I passed a loose dog peeing in the bushes with its owners sunk in conversation ten yards behind it.  I mentioned the sign and one of the people expressed surprise; he had understood the sign to mean that the “on-leash area” was ahead somewhere.  In other words he took it as a directional sign, the same as a freeway sign in Berkeley saying “Sacramento” means that this is the road to that place.

I can’t really blame him for that reading.  Compare the message of these two advisories.  “No Feeding Wildlife” is a direct command.  What part of “No feeding wildlife” could you not understand?  The message is clear, and the mention of a fine gives it some bite.  The wording is effective.  Look at the contrast with the leash sign.  No commands here.  What would be wrong with “No Dogs Off Leash Here”?  And what would be wrong with mention of a fine?

Don’t get me wrong.  The City’s park people deserve credit for taking the message about park regs to a new level.  A lower level, in this case, which might impact more eyeballs than the conventional signs posted above hat level.  This shows concern.  It shows initiative.  But the message needs more thought and more bite.  And I have to wonder how long it will be before foot traffic wipes out the message and leaves just vague blots of color on the asphalt.


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