Maintaining Outdoor Surfaces: Roads and Parking Lots

In the first installment of our three-part series on maintaining outdoor surfaces we covered recreation surface maintenance. However, recreation surfaces are not the only outdoor surfaces to consider in the Parks and Recreation field. Parking lots and roads also require a lot of maintenance. Let's look at the importance of keeping them in top condition.

Roads and Parking Lots in Parks and Recreation Settings

Roads and parking lots play a large part in recreation. Visitors must travel on roads to get to their favorite picnic and hiking spots or other venues. They also need clean, safe places to leave their vehicles while they enjoy the amenities those venues have to offer. Therefore, paved surfaces like roads and parking lots are the backbones of such locales.

Maintenance Starts in the Construction Phase

All roads and parking lots eventually deteriorate. After all, they are constantly exposed to vehicle and foot traffic, wildlife, the weather, and more. Your job is to extend the lives of the roads and lots under your charge, if possible. That way expensive processes like total repaving are minimized. Starting the maintenance process in the construction phase makes the process much easier. For example, the use of synthetic geotextiles as foundation materials can help hold gravel in place. Geotextiles are helpful because:

  • Holding gravel and other materials in place slows the need to replace those materials.
  • Geotextile layers in foundations increase the load bearing capacities of surfaces.
  • Ruts are less common when geotextiles are used.
  • Less aggregate materials (the materials under the paved surfaces) are used when geotextiles are present, reducing road and parking lot construction costs.

Asphalt Versus Gravel Road and Parking Lot Maintenance

Bituminous, or asphalt surfaces often fail because they are not properly constructed. For instance, they must have proper drainage. They also need to meet certain thickness requirements due to the heavy vehicles traveling on them. However, even when properly constructed, they will eventually develop pits, ruts, and other imperfections. Those imperfections are caused by general wear, water, and seasonal temperature changes. Of those, the most controllable is water damage, which you can manage by maintaining or replacing culverts and drainage ditches regularly.

Gravel surfaces are less desirable than asphalt surfaces. Even though they can be cheaper to initially install, they cause a lot of wear to vehicles and tires. When vehicles travel on gravel they also kick up a lot of dust. That dust can annoy visitors, as well as settle in nearby bodies of water or on surfaces you would rather keep clean, like picnic tables. If you do have gravel surfaces to maintain, use some method to control the dust, such as the application of calcium chloride. Also, you and your crew must blade (scrape) all gravel surfaces regularly to make sure they are draining properly. To maintain the crown on a gravel surface by blading you need proper equipment, such as a tractor.

Other Considerations

In this day and age, asphalt and gravel are not your only material choices when constructing new roads or parking lots. You might consider the use of porous concrete blocks, for example. There are also lots of synthetic materials that can be used to extend the usefulness of such surfaces. Always review your soil stabilization and surface paving options before construction starts. Then you have the best chance of making the ongoing maintenance process as simple and cost-effective as possible.

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