Resources and Library:


Hosted by


Telling a Better Story: Best practices for developing interpretive panels for trails

American Trails is proud to present “Telling a Better Story: Best Practices for Developing Interpretive Panels for Trails” as a part of the American Trails Webinar Series


arrow If you are interested in “attending” an archived version of the webinar, purchase the session via the American Trails Online Store

arrow Here's what one of the attendees of this webinar had to say:

I just wanted to let you know that it was AWESOME. I work for the BLM Barstow Field Office and my title is Interpretive Specialist but I have had NO training. Participating in that training helped me understand the concept of interpretation. It’s not just information, but being able to connect people emotionally. It was an epiphany!! I thought, Wow, I can do this!! I absolutely love the powerpoint and the projects that were highlighted. I like the format of the webinar because I don’t have to travel and I can do it right at my desk at a minimal cost. You do amazing work and I was very inspired to make a difference through the world of interpretation!!
-- Sincerely, Rose Beardshear BLM Barstow Field Office


arrow See Questions and Answers from Webinar on Developing Interpretive Panels for Trails


Here are the Presenters (see their bios below):

Jennifer Rigby, Director, The Acorn Group and American Trails Board Member

Erica Fielder, Owner, Erica Fielder Studio, Interpretive Panels Start to Finish


photo of man with covered signs sign

Typical educational panel installations

Visitors encounter a range of sign media when they arrive at a trailside. Entry signs welcome them; maps orient them; regulatory signs guide them. But it is the experiences on the trail that inspire them, and often, those experiences are made more powerful with wayside exhibits.

Wayside exhibits are low-profile interpretive panels positioned along the trail. Done poorly, these panels only dispense facts, and too many of them at that. Done well, they convey powerful messages that visitors understand. While they increase awareness and build knowledge, they also serve to inspire people, even turning them into trail stewards and advocates.

This American Trails’ webinar, “Telling a Better Story,” focuses on strategies for captivating your trail audience with provocative, well designed interpretive panels. Get practical advice for developing theme-based messages, establishing budgets, selecting images and design elements, understanding how visitors learn, writing interpretive text, and preparing files for production.

Join us for discussions and case studies, and take away valuable tips and techniques to turn ordinary panels into extraordinary experiences.

Presenters for the Webinar: “Telling a Better Story: Best practices for developing interpretive panels for trails”


photo of smiling woman


Jennifer Rigby is a board member of American Trails and director of The Acorn Group, an award-winning interpretive planning and design firm. For over 20 years she has created interpretive master plans and media for trail systems in a variety of settings: the windswept dunes of California, ancient redwood forests, the arid deserts of the Southwest, and the hardwood forests of Arkansas, to name a few. Regardless of where a project takes her, her focus is on creating sensory-rich and meaningful experiences for visitors.

Graphic of the butterfly bar interpretive panel


Jenny has developed wayside exhibits for large tracts of land in excess of 50,000 acres, as well as for short loop trails barely stretching a ½ mile. She has created media suited to families with very small children and to adult wildlife enthusiasts with very specific needs. She has learned the fine art of listening—to the land, the client, and the visitor.

Jenny’s background includes interpretive master planning; teaching in formal and non-formal institutions, including zoos and aquaria; interpretive writing; exhibit and graphic design; and visitor studies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social ecology, master’s degree in education, and two California teaching credentials. She is certified by the National Association for Interpretation as an interpretive planner. Jenny has been working in the field of interpretation since 1982.



photo of smiling woman


Erica Fielder developed a unique blend of skills she uses to create interpretive displays for trails and visitor centers. She has an MFA in Visual Art and has taken numerous college courses in natural sciences to inform her 40 years experience as a field interpreter. As an interpreter, she led both cultural and natural history field trips for all ages. Such excursions included California transects from the Pacific to the Sierra Crest, and nature/culture walks through San Francisco’s Financial District, to 20 years as resident naturalist at Jug Handle Nature Center in Caspar, CA. Erica illustrated and co-wrote two books, Ecology for City Kids and City Safaris (Sierra Club), on nature/culture adventures for urban children.

Interpretive panel on home is where the habitat is


Erica Fielder Studio: Interpretive Panels Start to Finish brings this wealth of experience to planning and designing your interpretive displays and trailside panels. Erica’s displays skillfully convey facts and anchor them through engaging original artwork, and references to memory, sensory and metaphor. Erica is passionate about improving the quality of interpretation everywhere so visitors have rich trail experiences, fall in love with a site, and care about it over time. Erica Fielder Studio has been making displays since 1983.

Print Friendly
Print Friendly and PDF




Facebook Twitter

Stay up to date on legislative issues for trails, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


business directory


trail database

Need trail skills and education? Do you provide training? Join the National Trails Training Partnership!

The NTTP Online Calendar connects you with courses, conferences, and trail-related training

arrowEnjoy and share the new online, digital version of the American Trails Magazine!

arrowHelp us provide you more useful resources to keep you on the cutting-edge -- please join today!

arrowWe are advocating for your interests! Visit the Supporting Trails page to view the latest in legislative news, current issues, and opportunities, and to learn how to access funding.

arrow Sign me up for American Trails Action Alerts and e-Newsletters">Sign up for American Trails Action Alerts and Trail Tracks e-Newsletters.


PDF  Some of our documents are in PDF format and require free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.
  Download Acrobat Reader

section 508 logo American Trails and NTTP support accessibility with Section 508: read more.