Maintaining Outdoor Surfaces: Trails

In our final installment of our three-part series (see Part 1 and Part 2) on maintaining outdoor surfaces we are going to discuss trail maintenance. There are many trail maintenance requirements to think about, and they vary based on the type of trail involved. For example, a hiking trail requires different maintenance processes from a skateboarding trail. Here are some things to remember when dealing with all types of trail maintenance.

Examples of Today's Trail Types

As times have changed, uses for trails have as well. Over the last few decades, trail types have expanded significantly. Hiking and walking trails are now just a couple types of trails offered by certain parks. Others may include trails for:

  • Horses
  • Bicycles
  • Motorcycles
  • Snowmobiles
  • Skateboards
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Walking/Jogging

The Popularity of Municipal Greenways

Greenways were first established in England, but they have since become quite popular in the United States. To put it simply, they are areas of protected open land. They often connect two parks or recreation areas to each other. You can also often find them along the edges of natural and man-made land features, such as bodies of water and railroad beds that are no longer in use. Natural greenways have many advantages, such as:

  • Helping to control flooding, erosion etc.
  • Allowing safe travel by bicyclists and pedestrians between various points.
  • Providing an area in which to study and preserve wildlife.
  • Improving air quality in the area surrounding the greenway.
  • Boosting the local economy, such as by increasing surrounding property values.
  • Preserving landmarks and historical areas.
  • Creating a separation between two areas used for differing purposes.
  • Reducing noise pollution.

Trail Layout Issues

When creating a new trail, you must decide where you want it to start and end, as well as what path it should follow to connect those two points. To make those determinations, you have to consider all aspects of the land, including protected areas, safety hazards, animal habitats, and more. If you want two trails to intersect, you must also map out the best place for them to meet. Additionally, you must consider how the lay of the land could effect the grade (slope) of the trail. A hiking trail is expected to have a slop, while a bicycle trail generally must be flat. As a result, you may not be able to run certain trails through particular areas.

Trail Components and Dimensions

When designing trails, there are official trail dimension guidelines you must follow for safety reasons. You must also consider all components of the trail. The tread (surface) is only one component. Every trail also needs a surrounding corridor, which is somewhat like the shoulder area of a road. Maintaining the corridor also includes keeping the area above the tread free of obstacles that could prevent safe usage, such as low-hanging tree branches. Most trails also require a buffer zone on either side of the trail corridor.

Final Ongoing Trail Maintenance Tips

One of the most important aspects of ongoing trail maintenance is maintaining trail markers. Those are typically well-recognized symbols denoting where the trails are and what types of trails they are. You must also create a schedule so you and your crew can regularly check the trails for maintenance issues. For example, you must regularly check for litter. Also, remember that unscheduled maintenance is sometimes required. For example, after a heavy rain storm always check your trails for flooding, erosion, fallen trees, and other weather-related issues. Above all else, keep the desires and needs of the particular trail users in mind. Make sure each trail is as challenging or relaxing as it needs to be for its intended purpose while still maintaining safety standards.

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