Two New South Jersey Road Signs are Leaving Local Drivers Confused

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Two new signs have been appearing along scenic South Jersey byways to guide motorists along these iconic routes. December 2016. Photos taken by Taylor Henry.

One sign depicts a canoe on the shore of a lake, and the other shows an osprey clutching a fish as it flies over the East Point Lighthouse. Neither sign bears any wordage. The signs popped up earlier this fall on state routes 47, 50, and 9, as well as several county routes from Cape May to Salem counties.

In an unscientific poll taken by 30 South Jersey drivers, 27 guessed that the canoe sign meant canoe launch or lake access, two people guessed it meant nature trails, and one person guessed it meant scenic roadway. Twenty-three people guessed the osprey sign meant bird observatory, four thought it meant marsh access, and only three people thought it meant scenic roadway.

Both signs actually indicate scenic byways that take drivers through historical routes of South Jersey. The canoe signs line the Pine Barrens Byway, and the osprey signs leads drivers through the Bayshore Heritage Byway. There are five other official scenic byways in the state.

According to the NJ DOT website, the Pine Barrens Byway was designated in 2005 and meanders through the estuaries, marshes, and forests of the Pine Barrens. The entire route covers 130 miles in Cape May, Cumberland, Burlington, Atlantic, and Ocean counties, and loops through lesser-traveled county roads, hence the “loop” signs.

The Pinelands Commission worked with 16 municipalities and the Pinelands Rural Economic Development Program in developing the byway to stimulate economic growth in the region that may not otherwise be traversed. The route map can be found on the state government website.

The Bayshore Heritage Byway guides drivers through 122 miles of marshlands, farm fields and historic towns along the Delaware River and Bay. The route spurs off towards the bayshore in Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem counties.

This byway was designated by the NJ DOT in 2009 to expand public awareness of the route’s history. The route map is available on the NJ DOT website.

The sign bearing the osprey and the East Point Lighthouse has confused visitors trying to find the lighthouse, according to Nancy Patterson of Friends of the East Point Lighthouse. The historical society had to create their own signs that lead to the lighthouse, which sits at the end of one of the route’s spurs, but drivers continue to be confused by the byway signs.

“It's still on our list to find a way to have more signs added to counteract the confusion,” Patterson said.

While the byways have been established for years, funding to fabricate and install signage was obtained through a national grant in 2012.

“Years of planning by local organizations [have] gone into this project, all with good intentions, but sadly, in my opinion, because of bad signage, DOT regulating color and no words on many of the signs, [it] has not played out well,” Patterson said.

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