British Columbia Ministry of Forests


Appendix 6: Signs

A6.1 Introduction
A6.2 General Policies and Directions
A6.3 Procedures and Standards

A6.3.1 Approved Cautionary and Danger Signs
A6.3.2 Sample Section 105 Notices

A6.4 References


Figure 1 Interpretive/Informational Board Signs
Figure 2 Directional Signs
Figure 3 Site/Trail Identification Signs
Figure 4 Routered Post and Plank Signs
Figure 5 Standard ministry of Forests Site/Trail Identification Sign
    with "In Cooperation With..." Sign
Figure 6 Standard Ministry of Forests Trail Identification Sign with "Adopt-A-Trail" Sign

A6.1 Introduction

Signs are a basic communication and management tool. They are part of the communication sub-activity of the recreation program (Section 1.4.3). Signs have an important role throughout much of the recreation program (Chapters 5, 9, 10, 13).

Signs are used to direct, identify, inform, warn or prohibit. In the recreation program, they are used to help the public better understand, use and enjoy the provincial forest recreation resource. They are an important indirect management tool for influencing and controlling the movements, activities and behaviour of people on Crown forest lands. Signs are also important to the ministry's legal and safety requirements in recreation use management.

Signs should be kept to a minimum and used only where necessary to provide users with essential information about facilities, regulations and risks.

Signs affect the recreation experience by setting an overall tone.

Well-designed and maintained signs can create a positive atmosphere and image. Consistency in signs can provide for quick identification. Signs, in essence, reflect and convey the commitment to and quality of service of the responsible agency to the management of the resources or facilities that they identify. Signs must also, of course, identify the responsible management agency.

Signs reflect on the manager and the managing agency.

Section A6.2 of this appendix identifies the general policies and directions that currently exist for signs and their use by the recreation program.

Within these overall policies and directions, Section A6.3 establishes the specific procedures and standards for signing that apply to the recreation program, and provides examples of the various types of signs used.

Section A6.? discusses some issues and possible initiatives in the area of signing.

Section A6.4  gives a list of cited and supplementary references.

Systematic approach

A systematic approach is recommended for the management and maintenance of outdoor signs. The following issues should be taken into account before signs are installed or prior to costly maintenance:

  • management objectives and priorities;
  • user requirements;
  • aesthetics/visual impact;
  • any restrictions on use/safety concerns;
  • coordinated location of standardized signs (e.g., trailheads, road intersections, recreation sites, etc.);
  • planned forest development activities;
  • suitable use of materials with respect to cost, maintenance, vandalism, lifespan, etc. (see A6.3); and
  • maintenance requirements.

Maintenance strategy

A sign maintenance strategy is recommended for each forest district. In the case of trails, this should be coordinated with trail management and maintenance activities (see Chapter 10 for trail maintenance procedures).

Sign inspections and work plan

Sign conditions should be inspected annually and accurate records kept. A work plan should also be developed to include:

  1. location of signs requiring maintenance or replacement, along with specifications;
  2. reason for the work required (vandalism, deterioration);
  3. estimated cost of repair or replacement; and
  4. schedule for carrying out maintenance activities.

To offset costs of on-site inspections, trail users could be encouraged to participate in a formalized "Adopt-A-Trail" program (such as the one run by the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC). Activities could include:

  1. annual or bi-annual inspections;
  2. reporting sign repair or replacement requirements; and
  3. reporting trail maintenance requirements.

A6.2 General Policies and Directions

There is no single, official policy or source of policy direction for signs and their use in the recreation program. Instead, there are a number of policies from a number of sources that collectively give overall direction to signing.

The key policies and directions pertinent to signs and their use in the recreation program, in addition to this appendix, are:

  • Ministry of Forests (MoF) policy, II-REC-005, Recreation Management, Safety and Environmental Management on FS sites and trails (Section 3.2);
  • BC Parks Sign Standards, July, 1993; and
  • various international sign standards for outdoor recreation.

MoF Policy (II-REC-004)

Standard MoF signs must identify this policy states that all active MoF recreation sites and trails. These standards are established in Section A6.3 of this appendix and in Appendix 2 (Recreation Structure Standards).

BC Parks Sign Standards

These standards were developed by BC Parks to achieve and maintain consistency of signs throughout the BC Parks System. This information may prove useful to Forest Service (FS) staff in locating, constructing and maintaining outdoor signs.

International Sign 

There are a number of internationally recognized signs and symbols for cross-country ski trails, snowmobile trails and canoe routes. All signs on applicable MoF trails and routes should be consistent with these standards.

For information on cross-country ski trail signs, consult the Cross-Country Ski Trail and Facility Development Construction and Maintenance Manual, Cross-Country Ski B.C. Copies of this publication are available from Forest Practices Branch.

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A6.3 Procedures and Standards

In addition to the general policies and directions, there are a number of specific procedures and standards for signs that apply to the recreation program.

The standards and specifications for approved MoF signs are primarily those established in Appendix 2 (Recreation Structure Standards) of this manual. MoF signs include sign shelters (as shown in Appendix 2), routered signs (the directional, identification and internal signs as shown in Appendix 2) and non-routered signs.

Board Signs

Interpretive or informational signs provide information about recreation use, regulations, safety, environmental awareness, resource management, etc. These signs may be used to inform users in both motorized and non-motorized areas.

Maps are an important feature of these signs, normally showing recreation sites and trails, roads, rivers, etc. to provide orientation and safety information.

Interpretive/informational signs are generally of board construction (see the example shown in Figure 1).

Figure 1
Interpretive/Informational Board Signs

Interpretive/Informational Board Signs

Directional Signs on Forest
Service/Roads Permit

Directional signs (Figure 2) for FS roads and permit roads should be planned so they effectively guide visitors to MoF recreation sites and trails. Placed at major forest road intersections, directional signs should point out natural features as much as possible, rather than the name of a recreation site. However, at the turn-off to a recreation site or trail, directional signs should bear the name of a site or trail, especially where the site or trail is a substantial distance off the main forest road or where the access to, or location of, the site or trail is not obvious.

Figure 2
Directional Signs

directional signs

Directional Signs on 

The FS does not normally use highway directional signs to direct the public to an FS site or trail. Under certain circumstances a district may consider that the use of a highway directional sign is appropriate. The Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MoTH) must be involved in the process to have a directional sign placed along a highway. At this time, the MoTH has standards in place to ensure that they consistently maintain highway signs throughout the Province. MoTH will manufacture a FS directional sign for use on a highway using the same format and layout as would be used for a BC Provincial Park sign with one exception - on a highway, a BC park's signs is blue and an FS sign is brown.

Site/Trail Identification 

Site/trail identification signs (Figure 3) are perhaps the most important of all MoF signs. They create the visitor's first impression when searching for a glimpse of a recreation site or trail.

Site/trail identification signs are not expected to serve the function of a road-side marker or turn-off sign. They are to be placed at the entrance to the site or trail parking area, usually on the right side of the approach road. Identification signs should be clearly visible and there should be no clustering of other signs around them.

It may not be appropriate to use the standard trail identification sign for all trails. For example, at some locations the standard trail identification sign may not fit in with the surrounding environment or with the scale of development. In these cases, identification signs may be a routered post or plank sign (Figure 4), or an informational board sign (Figure 1).

Figure 3
Site/Trail Identification Signs

site/trail identification signs

Figure 4
Routered Post and Plan Signs
Routered Post and Plan Signs
Internal Signs

Internal or onsite, site and trail signs should be planned to effectively guide visitors (Figure 4). Messages should contain only essential information and should be consistent and centralized where possible.

Warning Signs

Warning signs notify visitors of potentially dangerous areas or situations. Where required, warning signs should be placed both offsite (to give advanced warning before the visitor enters the developed portion of the site or trail) and onsite (to mark the hazardous area or situation). 

An initial list of recreation warning signs has been prepared (see Section A6.3.1) to streamline the process of having warning signs designed and reviewed by the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General. The wording for the warning signs listed have been pre-approved for use by Legal Services. 

Where a pre-approved warning sign is not appropriate and a new warning sign must be prepared, Legal Services should review the proposed sign text for liability implications. In these instances, districts are encouraged to work with headquarters staff.

Cooperative Project Signs

It is important to recognize and acknowledge recreation user groups or companies that cooperate in the development and maintenance of recreation sites or trails on Crown land. It is also important to inform the public that such cooperatively built and maintained sites or trails are still public facilities on public land. To this end, cooperative projects should be signed as follows:

  • Where the recreation user group or forest company is involved in developing or maintaining a site or trail under contract with the MoF, an "in cooperation with..." sign should be hung below the bottom plank of the standard MoF site/trail identification sign, as shown in Figure 5.
  • The Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia (FMCBC) coordinates an "Adopt-A-Trail" program. Groups wishing to adopt a trail on provincial forest land should establish an agreement with the MoF (Section A4.2) and then contact the FMCBC in Vancouver for registration and a supply of appropriate signs. A sample of the "Adopt-A-Trail" sign is shown in Figure 6.
Figure 5
Standard FS Site/Trail Identification Sign
with "Cooperation Sign"

Standard FS Site/Trail Identification Sign

Figure 6
Standard FS Trail Identification Sign with "Adopt-A-Trail" Sign

Standard FS Trail Identification Sign with "Adopt-A-Trail" Sign


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Table: Choosing sign materials


Relative Cost

Mainten. & Av. Life

Best Used



ALUMINUM, anodized

  • Aluminum plates with black or coloured images etched into surface

  • Can reproduce text, colour photos and line illustrations



10 years

  • where signs are replaced often

  • where hard to vandalize

  • where light weight is important

  • Light weight

  • Some processes can show many colours (e.g., photos)

  • Inexpensive to produce

  • Easily damaged by scratches and extreme heat


  • Cast to produce a three-dimensional effect

  • May be painted

  • Can reproduce text and line illustrations



20+ years

Convey an image of permanence

  • For 3-D lettering or images

  • Memorial or dedication plaques

  • Durable, paintable,

  • 3 dimensions

  • Cannot reproduce full colour photos

  • Very expensive

CEDAR, carved or routed

  • Thick wooden signs

  • Part or all may be painted

  • Can include text and colour illustrations

Low/ Mod/ High


15 years

  • Entrance & trail head

  • Where rustic look is required

  • Can be inexpensive (esp. if done in-house)

  • Easily damaged

  • Require yearly mainten.

  • Cannot reproduce full colour photos


  • Consist of colour photographs embedded in multiple layers of ultraviolet resistant resins – can include text, photos and illustrations

First originals are high

Copies are relatively low


10-15 years

  • Where high quality images needed

  • High vandalism areas

  • High quality colour images

  • Vandal and weather resistant

  • Originals are expensive to produce

  • Can be scratched, & damaged by flame


  • Consist of steel bases with a porcelain enamel coating

  • Can reproduce full colour images, including text, photos and illustrations



10-20 years

  • High use and high vandalism areas

  • Most vandal and weather resistant material available

  • Some colours poor reproduction

  • Will rust if chipped

  • Expensive to produce or replace

PLYWOOD, painted or silk-screened

  • Can accommodate text, photos and illustrations



5-10 years

  • For low budget & local production

  • Inexpensive to produce or replace

  • Can be locally produced

  • Difficult to repair, often damaged by porcupines

VINYL DECALS (soft vinyl)

  • Decal-on-decal layering permits economical production of one-off signs



5-7 years

  • One-off signs

  • Reflective material available

  • Consistent quality

  • Not repairable

  • Require metal or wood backing

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A6.3.1 Approved Cautionary and Danger Signs

The Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General has approved the wording for the signs on this list for use by districts.

Cautionary Signs

Gate ahead.

Cattle guard ahead.

Forest fire control action taking place. 
Watch for aircraft.

Meager Creek Hotsprings is an established recreation site and trail for public use and enjoyment. Obstacles, dangers and hazards exist; some of which are hidden from view.

Use of the roads, trails, parking lot, structures, campgrounds natural hotsprings, pools and other facilities, both within the recreation site and surrounding areas, may result in PERSONAL INJURY, LOSS OR DAMAGE TO PROPERTY. By using same you are assuming all risks of such personal injury, loss or damage to property occurring.

Extreme caution must be exercised at all times. Proceed at your own risk.

Entering Restricted Industrial Road.
Watch for heavy vehicles.
Use extreme caution. (or state specific restriction, i.e., "closed to public weekdays 8am to 5pm").

All garbage must be in securely fastened bags deposited in refuse disposal cages to discourage bears foraging in your vicinity.

An environment free of garbage will keep bears away. No brush, leaves or used building material is to be disposed of in or around garbage cages.

To avoid attracting bears,
please burn all garbage before depositing in litter barrels.

Bears in area.

The use on non-ministry facilities on this recreation site by the public is done so at their own risk with the full knowledge that no liability shall attach to the MoF or its servants for any loss, damage, death or injury whatsoever to any person or property arising from such use.

Avalanche area.
No stopping for next km.

This trail is (recommended) for experienced hikers only. Return trip to this point is approximately 7 hours.

Marked trail ends here. You must return to this point in order to follow trail back to Edwards Lake.

All boats stop here.
Check low bridge ahead for clearance.
Portage may be necessary.

Low clearance at high water.
Boaters check before crossing.

Danger ahead,
Steep cliffs.

Danger ahead,
Trail leads to steep cliffs.

Steep bank..

Steep bank,
Stay behind fence.

Site may be subject to flooding after heavy rain.

Motorcross area, 
Use at your own risk.

Swimmers' Itch
An ounce of prevention:

  • Before swimming, massage exposed skin with oil-base lotion or baby oil.
  • After swimming or wading, towel promptly and vigorously.

A possible cure:

  • Generous applications of Calamine lotion to affected areas may help.

Do Not Drink Water.
May contain organisms, which can cause illness.

Trail work in progress.

Danger ahead.
Steep Cliffs.

Skiers crossing.
____ km ahead.

Beach area unsupervised - Swim at your own risk.

Unstable river bank.

These natural hotsprings vary in temperature from approximately 38 C - 54 C (100 F - 130 F). Long-term exposure may result in nausea, dizziness or fainting. Be guided accordingly.

  • Do not bathe when alone.
  • Do not drink alcohol while in the pool. -Do not bathe while under the influence of alcohol or medications for cardiovascular or nerve disorders. -Elderly persons, pregnant women and persons with heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure should not bathe in these hotsprings.
  • Infections may result if head is submerged. 
  • Unsupervised use by children is prohibited. 
  • No lifeguard. 
  • Swim at your own risk.
  • Do not dam, block or divert the flow of waters. Stairs, walkways and rocks may be slippery. Extreme caution should be exercised at all times.
Danger Signs

When crossing glacier keep to marked route.

Submerged stumps.

Due to underground springs, this lake is rarely covered by ice thick enough to support snowmobiles.

Keep all domestic animals tethered or confined.

Bears sighted in this area, last sighting <date>.

Dangerous drop.

Unsafe conditions, Trail closed.

This site is closed to public use. The unique geological and hydrological features of the land in the <Daisy Lake> area present a property danger, which could result from a landslide and wave run-up. Consequently use and development of this area is restricted by Order-in-Council 1185-80 of the Government of B.C.

Do not enter cave.

Underwater hazard - No diving


No diving from wharf.
May be underwater hazards.

No diving from wharf,
Underwater hazards.

Areas of unprotected sharp drop-off.
Young children should be supervised.

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A6.3.2 Sample Section 105 Notices

The following section presents a sampling of Section 105 recreation orders that have been established. They include orders that were established under the Forest Act, as well as orders that have been more recently established under the Forest Practices Code of BC Act. Refer to the appendix on Section 105 for further guidance.

Legal Services Branch and, more recently, Compliance and Enforcement Branch have reviewed the wording for these orders. In all cases, a copy of the legal notice and the text for the posted notice are included. Where available, other information, such as the map, letters exempting licence holders, backgrounders explaining the reason for the order and news paper articles, are included.

1. Allen Creek Snowmobile Trails Section 105 Recreation Order, Clearwater Forest District, established May 28, 1993:

  • order restricts all motorized vehicles, except snowmobiles, from using the Allen Creek recreation trails and trail area. 

2. Kluachesi Lake Section 105 Recreation Order, Fort Nelson Forest District, established August 23, 1993:

  • order restricts various uses and activities within 500 metres of Kluachesi Lake.

3. Raven Lake/Grizzly Den Recreation Site & Trails Section 105 Recreation Order, Prince George Forest District, established December 16, 1994:

  • order restricts all terrain vehicles including snowmobiles, except for servicing the site by FS staff, from using the Raven Lake/Grizzly Den recreation site and trails.

4. Paulson Cross-Country Recreation Site Section 105 Recreation Order, Arrow Forest District, established January 11, 1995:

  • order prohibits overnight use of the cross-country ski shelters at Paulson Cross Country Recreation Site.

5. Telemark Cross-Country Ski Trails Section 105 Recreation Order, Penticton Forest District, established September 1, 1995:

  • order prohibits unauthorized motor vehicles and all-terrain-vehicles, including snowmobiles, from using the Telemark Cross- Country Ski Trails.

6. Jumbo Creek & Catamont Glacier/North Star Glacier Section 105 Recreation Orders, Invermere Forest District, established January 1, 1996:

  • order prohibits recreational snowmobiling in the Jumbo Creek and Catamont Glacier/North Star Glacier areas.

7. Sample Section 105 Recreation Order to restrict use at a recreation site, Recreation Section:

  • order prohibits persons from staying at the identified recreation site for more than the identified number of days during the identified period 

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A6.4 References

Cited References

BC Parks Sign Standards, 1993

Outdoor Recreation Sign Manual, Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing, 1983 (out of print)

Ministry of Forests Policy Manual 

Cross-Country Ski Trail and Facility Development Construction and Maintenance Manual, Cross-Country Ski Association of BC

Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC, Adopt-a-Trail Program

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