The signs are erected throughout Fayetteville and Cumberland County, each one bearing a mysterious symbol.
There are no words, just images.
Each sign displays one to four icons — such as dog tags, a fish or a roaring lion — along with a directional white arrow.
A reader contacted FayWHAT?, the Observer initiative to investigate and answer your questions about our community, to help solve the mystery.
“How do you find the historical items/places shown on special signs throughout the city since only a white arrow designates the direction you need to travel?” the reader asked.
The answer rests on a rack at the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau on Person Street in the heart of downtown.
That’s where people can find guide booklets that detail 17 themed driving trails and their various destinations. The guides can also be found on the bureau’s website, visitFayettevilleNC.com.
The Cultural Heritage Trails feature more than 750 miles of history to explore throughout Cumberland County.
“If someone grabbed this (guide) … basically, all of the trails start here,” said Angie Brady, the bureau's director of tourism and client relations.
“From here, we give you turn-by-turn directions to get you to the next location. That’s the idea. We knew several of the locations were on multiple trails, so we couldn’t necessarily put words on the signs.
“The signs are basically gentle reminders that you are going in the right direction.”
Brady said the project started in 2007 as part of a bigger initiative with signs that was funded by grants. The trail signs served as a way to encourage visitors and those who live in Cumberland County to explore local history.
“The original goal was to highlight our trails. We have a really great asset here, depending on what you’re interested in,” Brady said.
“These assets tell the story of Cumberland County. These trails were put together by a group of local historians from different organizations. We literally went line by line and made sure all of the information in these trails was historically accurate. We had the trails first, then it was about getting the signs in the ground to help people navigate as they’re using the guide.”
An educational tool, many of the trails connect sites to different points in history — and each symbol leads the way from location to location.
Some of the trails included are: the American Independence Trail, designated by a circle of stars; the Civil War Trail, indicated by a cannon; and the Gaelic Beginnings Trail, a sign dressed in green with the image of a roaring lion.
There’s also the All-American Adventure Trail, designated by a tree with a crossing bat and golf club, and perhaps the most noticeable icon: dog tags, which represent the Patriots, Past & Present Trail for exploring military history.
There’s a different theme for everyone, and that’s the beauty of it, Brady says.
“If you read through this (guide), you would have a very good handle on the history of Cumberland County and all of the different things that took part here,” she said.
“It’s all very interesting. Working on this project was how I learned about Cumberland County. I think this is one of our most valuable resources.”
So, the signs are a key piece to the puzzle, but the guide is needed to see the full picture.
“Once people realize there’s a book to go along with it, it all kind of makes sense,” Brady said. “The signs were never meant to get you from point A to point B. They are just there to gently guide you.”
Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-486-3519.