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Montecito Community Foundation, Volunteers Replacing Street Signs Damaged in Debris Flow

The group is making the iconic wooden signs to replace ones that were damaged or washed away

Montecito street signs at Hot Springs, Olive Mill roads Click to view larger
Replacement street signs have been installed at the Hot Springs/Olive Mill roads intersection in Montecito, one of the hardest-hit areas in the deadly Jan. 9 debris flow.  (Courtesy photo)

Thirty-six hand-painted, carved street signs in Montecito are being repaired or rebuilt following the deadly and destructive Jan. 9 debris flow.

One of the most devastated areas in Montecito — the Hot Springs/Olive Mill roads intersection, known as the triangle and the “Y” — was the first area to get the new signs, in April.

“We wanted to get the signs up that were the most needed…because so many people travel that route,” Ted Urschel, Montecito Community Foundation board president, said of the area. 

“Some places we aren’t sure where the road is going to be. We are making the signs but not putting them in yet.”

Funding for the materials comes from the Montecito Community Foundation, and a team of volunteers is creating and installing the signs. 

Building each sign is a multi-step process.

Western red-cedar wood is cut as the core, and a quarter inch of black plastic is cut to a rectangle shape to fit the sign. From there, a scroll saw carves the letters out. 

The letters are painted freehand or traced from the undamaged sign, explained Doug Ford, founder of DD Ford Construction and a member of the Montecito Community Foundation board.

Wooden street signs for Montecito Click to view larger
The Montecito Community Foundation and a team of volunteers are making replacement street signs.  (Courtesy photo)

White reflective tape and application tape is added to the sign, among other steps, and the white lettering is embedded on the wood.

“It’s cleaned, trimmed up and the edges are painted,” said Ford while standing inside his Santa Barbara-based workshop. “It takes about a week and a half, maybe two weeks. We thought it was just going to be woodworking, but it’s been a cool process.”

Ford hopes to have all of the new signs done in four to six weeks. 

“When you drive by and see them, it’s pretty cool,” he said of the new signs.

Ford had volunteered to preserve the roadway signs before the debris flow, Urschel noted.

Using a saw to cut sign letters Click to view larger
The multi-step process making the wooden Montecito street signs includes using a scroll saw to cut out the letters.  (Courtesy photo)

“He has converted a corner of his shop to doing this,” Urschel said of Ford. “Everyone wanted to help. It was Doug and his team that stepped up.”

Sign maker Paul Musgrove, who retired last year after 15 years of service, produced and refurbished all of the street signs throughout Montecito before DD Ford Construction took over the project.

The price tag of the street signs varies, but generally, each sign costs more than $1,000, Urschel said.

About 212 wooden street signs in Montecito are managed and funded by the Montecito Community Foundation since at least 1975, he added. 

Sign at Montecito Fire Protection District Click to view larger
The Montecito Community Foundation wooden sign replacement project includes a sign at the Montecito Fire Protection District headquarters on San Ysidro Road.  (Courtesy photo)

“We are a volunteer organization, and we fund local projects in Montecito,” Urschel said. “We are always looking for projects that help the public.”

Urschel noted that the Montecito Community Foundation identified a handful of commercial sign makers after the original sign creator retired, but their estimates were more than $2,000.

Street sign replacement needs due to theft, termites, or vehicle accidents involving the signs has been in the talks before the mudslides ravaged Montecito, Urschel explained.

“The signs don’t last forever,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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