By Margaret Magnus
The Stone Sign & Marker Project commemorates and marks the touchstones related to Avatar Meher Baba’s 1956 visit. Equally, as the number of visitors to Meher Mount increases each year – a 17% increase in the past two years to more than 1,500 visits in 2016 – it is important to have signs that inform, guide and orient these visitors.
Meher Mount is bringing to fruition a project that has been years in the making: 14 stone signs and markers starting at the gateway entrance and continuing through the property to Baba's Tree and Avatar's Point.
These markers create lasting reminders of Avatar Meher Baba’s presence at Meher Mount for the guidance of present and future generations of visitors.
HOW DO VISITORS FIND MEHER MOUNT?
Visitors often wander up the hill on Sulphur Mountain Road for some reason or no reason at all and turn unexpectedly into the driveway.
Over the years, the stories repeat themselves. “My car just turned into the driveway.” “We were out for a drive to look at the views and saw this sign and came in.” “I ride my mountain bike up here all the time and just noticed your sign.”
A stone sign will mark the gateway entrance to Meher Mount.
WHAT IS THIS PLACE?
Because Meher Mount gets so many first-time visitors (more than half, at least), they often ask, “What is this place?” Meher Mount is a place of universal pilgrimage dedicated to Avatar Meher Baba.
Manager/Caretaker Leslie Bridger said the thinking behind the sign describing Meher Mount as a place of pilgrimage was to orient visitors and give them a choice point. "We have witnessed on many occasions vehicles pulling up to the second gate and then reversing out none the wiser to what Meher Mount has to offer," he said.
There are two major stone signs designed to help orient visitors and provide basic guidelines that help to preserve Meher Mount.
SIGNS TO GUIDE VISITORS
Meher Mount is a sacred place to open to all. At the same time, it is important to orient first-time visitors, have them register, and provide signs that help guide them and make the visit more enjoyable for all.
Signs and Their Times
Over time, there have been a number of shorter and longer term sign-solutions designed to serve a specific purpose at Meher Mount.
The five-foot entryway sign was carved in cedar by Jim Auster in 2001. There is a beautiful spreading oak tree evoking Baba’s Tree and with the words “Meher Mount” engraved at the bottom.
It was Jim's inspiration to write "Meher Mount" in letters that are a copy of Meher Baba's handwriting found in the book, In God's Hand.
The sign was installed at Meher Mount as part of the 4th Annual Young Adult Sahavas, August 22-26, 2001. It has served Meher Mount well. Most recently, it has gotten harder to read as the wood has weathered.
This sign will be replaced at the gateway. It will be kept for posterity and relocated to another spot on the property.
Other painted wooden signs were put up to explain safety rules and identify open hours. Those green, brown and white signs served a purpose to help inform and guide visitors. Over time, some information has changed and letters have started to fall off.
Most recently other directional signs where placed on the property to guide visitors, but the intense ultraviolet (UV) light faded the signs and took its toll on the lightweight wood.
Repair or Replace?
Thus, the question became: Repair the existing hodgepodge of signs or come up with a comprehensive plan, create a cohesive look and implement a long-term solution? The Board of Directors – with guidance from the Signage Committee – chose to focus on a long-term solution.
The Signage Committee identified guidelines for the replacement of the existing signs and the addition of other signs:
- Be practical and take into account the weather and the intense UV light.
- Strive for consistency and cohesion. Integrate with existing materials, colors, and designs related to Meher Mount’s communications and buildings.
- Be harmonious with the beauty of nature and integrate into the land.
- Add to, not detract from, the experience of being at Meher Mount.
- Provide enough general information, with more specific guidelines in print and on the website.
The Stone Sign & Marker Project: A Balance
The stewardship of Meher Mount is a balance of minimizing the long-term impact of development and usage on the land, while at the same time creating a maximum opportunity for visitors to enjoy nature and the special atmosphere that is Meher Mount.
The Stone Sign & Marker Project is just that balancing act: Signs that mark Meher Mount, identify key spots on the property and help direct visitors, while at the same time are in keeping with the natural beauty of Meher Mount.
The project includes 14 signs, starting with the gateway to Meher Mount and continuing to guide visitors through the property to Baba's Tree and Avatar's Point. The stone material is not only of the earth, but is also chosen to withstand weather, intense ultraviolet light, and time. The sizes of the stones vary and are chosen based on the ability to read them from a distance and to be clearly visible to all.
The selected stone signs and markers are consistent with the “old bones” of the mountain and are intended to reflect the permanence of the Avataric presence.
plans developed over time
In developing the final signage plan, the committee did a number of site visits and walked the property more than once taking notes, measurements and evaluating options.
The committee members included: Margaret Magnus, Communications Director; Nancy Pinckert, designer and production manager; Marta Flores, sign advocate and frequent visitor; Ron Holsey, Chair of the Landscaping Committee; Jim Whitson, Board member; Buzz and Ginger Glasky, current Manager/Caretakers; and Ray Johnston, former Manager/Caretaker.
Stonehenge Signs, Inc. based in Quincy, CA, is providing all the stone signs. Rob Conover, who provided ongoing consultation during the design process, is overseeing production and will supervise installation. The plaques are produced by Machan Sign Company in Long Beach, CA.
The signs range in cost from $500, such as the sign for "Baba's Path," to $5,000 for the gateway entrance sign. The total project is $25,000 for the uninstalled signs. The material is blond Quartzite Sandstone.
The Stone Sign & Marker Project supports the long-term legacy of Meher Mount and helps creates lasting reminders of Avatar Meher Baba's presence.