The building blocks of great trails and the process of creating great OHV trails starts with an understanding of the interconnected principles of OHV management. These principles need to be carried through the planning, design, implementation, maintenance, and program management, and they apply to existing trails as well as new trails.
The 4Es: Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Evaluation The process of creating great OHV trails starts with an understanding of the fundamental principles of OHV management. These principles need to be carried through planning, design, implementation, maintenance, and program management and they apply to existing trails and new trails.
The first underlying principle is that OHV recreation needs to be managed. The use is not going to go away and it cannot be ignored. The days of having a block of land where they go and ignoring what is really going on there are no longer possible. The ostrich approach to management is prone to failure. Unmanaged OHV recreation can lead to user-created trails, unacceptable resource impacts, poor recreation experiences, conflict with other stakeholders or other recreationists, antagonistic community and media relations, and litigation. The target of most of this negativity is usually the group of riders who really just want their share of the recreational resource, a place to ride responsibly, and to be left alone. Too often, the eventual result is closure and a reduction of riding opportunities.
In 2007, the Bear Creek OHV area in Kelowna, British Columbia, was on the verge of closure. Unmanaged OHV use had been occurring there for 35 years. There was a maze of user-created trails, hillclimbs, significant resource impacts, angry stakeholders, and upset residents. The community and media were up in arms. The local club, the Okanagan Trail Riders Association, saw the writing on the wall and started taking action by seeking advice from experts. Not long after, Recreation Sites & Trails BC declared the area a Recreation Site and began active management. At 35,000 hectares (110,000 acres), it is the largest recreation site in the province. There was a lot at stake.
By 2012, the accomplishments included: 224 km (139 miles) of sustainable, well-designed trails; a trail ranger program; a camp host program; a massive closure and rehabilitation effort was completed; riders were compliant with sound and spark arrester requirements; a new trail pass was being overwhelmingly accepted; a sensitive grassland ecosystem had been protected; and the stakeholders, media, and residents were appeased.
Bear Creek is the first designated, managed OHV trail system in BC and it is now being used as an OHV model for the province.
The creation of any successful trail, trail system, or OHV park involves the successful application of three key elements: provide for the riders’ needs; design for sustainability; and develop an effective operations and maintenance (O&M) program. These three elements form the basis for the Great Trail Continuum.
High Quality Opportunities + Varied Opportunities = Success
Happy Riders = Happy Managers
How do managers provide for the riders’ needs? First of all, they need to know who the riders are and understand the various vehicle types and the experiences those riders are looking for. This book covers a wide range of vehicles and a wide range of riders, but fortunately, they all have similar recreation needs and desires.
Riders’ needs and desires:
Sustainability is one of those terms that many use and few really understand. In reality, there are four key aspects to sustainability: resource, experience, political, and managerial. Most people just think of resource sustainability so let’s delve into that first.
There are many definitions of resource sustainability. It is one of those terms that makes a trail or project feel warm, fuzzy, and good; and the hope is that it will make the antagonists feel good also. Managers and developers say to the trail consultants: “I don’t know what it is, but that’s what I want.”
A sustainable trail:
A sustainable trail does not mean that:
A sustainable trail has constant flow and roll. Tangents are minimized and grade reversals force water off the trail at regular intervals. Flow is the rhythm of the trail, which is usually created by a very curvilinear horizontal alignment. Roll is the vertical rise and fall of the trail grade. Roll also contributes to the rhythm of the trail, but its key role is providing natural drainage points through grade reversals, which significantly reduce the potential for soil movement. Trail hardening is used where needed and a multitude of trail design and engineering structures are incorporated where applicable. The tread is durable and the trail offers a high quality recreation experience within the intended difficulty level without the difficulty changing over time due to unintended degradation.
Horizontal Flow + Vertical Roll = Increased Sustainability
As stated previously, OHV recreation needs to be managed and this means ongoing management. The trail or trail system needs to be maintained and evaluated on a regular basis, and adaptive management applied in a timely manner to keep indicators from becoming problems (i.e., effective application of the 4Es described later in this chapter). This takes personnel, materials, the proper equipment, and funding. Too often, project planners and developers focus on the design and construction and overlook the critical elements of management and maintenance.
Success will be achieved by utilizing the 4Es in conjunction with commitment, persistence, firm resolution, and hands-on management. It isn’t enough to put up a sign and walk away. Signs make good targets or garage wall decorations. It is important to stay in the ring for all 10 rounds. Persistence leads to success. The message will get through.
Engineering happens on the ground. It is applied during the trail and facility location and design, the trail and facility construction, structures for resource protection or mitigation, signing, fencing and barriers to control and direct use, and having proper operation and maintenance tools and equipment.
The area with the least resources is always enforcement. However, by doing a thorough job of engineering and education, the need for enforcement can be vastly diminished, although it can never go away.
Effective Application of the 4Es = Successful Project Implementation = Successful OHV Management
Dispersing the riders is a key to successful OHV management because it spreads the riders out over a larger area. Why is this a benefit? By providing dispersal, there are fewer riders on any given section of trail. While this can reduce trail maintenance costs and potential wildlife disturbances, it primarily reduces the number of encounters with other riders and enhances the quality of the recreation experience. Like any other trail recreationist, OHV riders value stopping and enjoying the natural environment. OHV recreation is a very social activity, but just because the riders enjoy being with their group doesn’t mean that the riders enjoy being with all of the other groups on the trail system.
Trail Junctions = Decision Points = Dispersal
The more seat time, the better the recreation experience. Why is seat time important to the OHV manager? If someone comes to an OHV park to spend 6 hours and they’ve done everything in 2 hours, what are they going to do for the rest of the time? The same applies to a trail system. Suppose there is a destination trail system with a campground. It will not be uncommon for an ATV group to come and camp for 2 to 5 days over a long weekend. If an ATV rider can ride 50 miles in a day on the trails and there are only 50 miles of trail, there is one day of riding provided. What will the rider do for the other days of their stay?
More Recreation Activity Time = Higher Quality Recreation Experience
Remember the discussion on providing for the riders’ needs. If riders find what they want ON the trail, they won’t look for it OFF the trail. Having adequate mileage while still protecting resources is essential, but the other part of the equation in determining seat time is speed. If there are 20 miles of trail and it can be ridden at 20 miles per hour, one hour of seat time has been provided. If the designer is creative and makes the trails tighter, more serpentine, and reduces tread width so that the trails can now only be ridden at 10 miles per hour, the seat time has doubled. The advantages to the OHV manager are obvious. The challenge for the system planner and trail designer then is to maximize the mileage and reduce the speed.
Reducing the maximum possible speed does not eliminate the challenge or experience for the riders. They can still ride a trail at their fastest possible speed regardless of whether that speed is 2mph or 20mph.
What if the size of the project area or OHV park does not allow for enough trail miles for one or more days? While seat time is important, spending quality time with friends and family in the outdoors also is an important aspect of recreation activity time.
More Recreation Activity Time = Higher Quality Recreation Experience
|Existing Roads Can:||Existing Trails Can:|
|Be too straight (poor flow)||Be too straight (poor flow)|
|Be too fast (reduced seat time)||Be too fast (reduced seat time)|
|Be too boring (poor experience)||Utilize the fall line (ruts and erosion)|
|Have long, sustained grades (no roll)||Have long, sustained grades (no roll)|
|Have poor drainage (not sustainable)||Have poor drainage (not sustainable)|
|Provide inconsistent difficulty (poor experience)|
Many existing roads and trails are likely to be non-sustainable and offer a low or poor recreation experience. This is directly counter to two of the three elements for success: provide for the riders’ needs and design for sustainability.
Variety and its benefits have been mentioned several times in this chapter because it is an important management tool. Riding on the trails is the primary reason an OHV rider visits a riding area. Expanding the variety, and thus, the experience adds pleasure to the riders. Planners can expand the variety by adding loops, narrow trails, trails on roads, changes in difficulty, changes in topography and vegetation, youth training areas and learner loops, mudbogs, play areas, or technical challenge courses.
Providing variety is an effective OHV planning and design tool that will help ensure management success.
Here are some of the OHV management elements discussed in this chapter:
Respect the Land, the Water, the Wildlife, and the Rights of Others Creating a sustainable trail or trail system is very similar to building a house—it takes a vision, a good plan, constructing a solid foundation, sound construction practices, and then proper maintenance to protect the structure’s integrity. If the proper time and effort is not spent in each one of these steps, the entire project could be jeopardized.
Vision without Action is a Daydream.
Action without Vision is a Nightmare.
All of these potential activities could contribute to the essential element of. Few people ride their OHV for 10 hours straight every day. Planners should provide a creative mix of activities and experiences.
Will there be events on the trails? Depending on the soils, vegetation, and topography, trails that will have competitive events may need to be designed differently in order to be sustainable. Many soil types cannot endure a high volume of use in a short duration of time. This also applies to OHV parks where there may not be events on the trails, but there is a high volume of use on generally a low-mileage trail system.
|Trail System Features:||Meet Riders' Needs:|
To continue the vision, the planners need to conduct a site assessment to determine the feasibility of the vision. Will the site support the vision? If not, what can it support? The assessment needs to look at the topography, soil types, vegetation, climate, known resource concerns (wildlife habitat, riparian areas, cultural resources, etc.), known management constraints (conservation areas, restrictive management areas, etc.), known stakeholder issues, existing uses and their impacts if any, safety issues with the current uses, and the feasibility of adding other recreational activities. All issues need to be assessed and documented. If no one on the team has the expertise to conduct this assessment, consider having a consultant do it. Consultants may see things that the team had not considered and their eyes are unbiased, objective, and professional.
So far, the team has collected the following data: a) an understanding of the physical characteristics of the site; b) a site assessment; c) comprehension of the vehicle types and the OHV recreationists; d) a grasp on the types of experiences to be provided; and e) knowledge of other OHV opportunities in the area or region (niche). With this broader knowledge, it’s time to refine the vision statement. Below is a sample from the Gypsum City OHV Park in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Gypsum City OHV Park is a community partnership developed and dedicated to enhance recreational opportunities and promote tourism and economic diversity. With its many diversified activities and year-round usage, the goal is to provide a place where families can enjoy the Iowa outdoors in a beautiful well-managed setting. High-quality sustainable trails will provide a range of experiences while well-designed facilities will cater to the needs and comfort of our visitors. The Park will provide a legal designated place for OHV recreationists, and the vision is for the Gypsum City OHV Park to be the premiere destination for not only Iowa, but the entire Midwest.
The next step is to build a spatial database with all known information about the site. Often this is called a resource, inventory, opportunity, or constraint map. This data is best recorded as layers in a program such as a Geographic information system (GIS). Each type of information is recorded in its own layer, and the layers can be easily turned on or off depending on the type of information needing to be displayed on the screen or map. Commercial-grade global positioning system (GPS) units have the ability to store a wide range of information about each trail or trail segment. These are called data dictionaries and they can be downloaded to form the GIS layers. Data can be collected as to the road and trail widths, use type, grade, trail condition (degradation), surface type, indicators of erosion, condition of road and trail structures, etc.
|Point data could be a control point, unique feature, nest site, etc.|
|Line data could be fencelines, utility corridors, roads, trails, etc.|
|Polygon data could be a management boundary, cultural site, non=native weed population, water feature, etc.|
Although this is a lot of data, planners should remember that the goal is to design a sustainable high-quality trail or trail system that protects resource values and provides high-quality recreation experiences. These objectives can only be accomplished by having thorough knowledge of the site.
The next step in the process is to develop a trail concept map. For planners to produce a good product, they need multi-resource data, accurate data, and complete data. It can be expensive to collect this comprehensive data; however, planning is the building block or foundation of the trail system. It will be cheaper and more efficient to gather the information now than to have a critical resource issue surface after the construction crews and equipment are on site. In addition, the person doing the trail layout and design must be intimately familiar with almost every square foot of the site. When that person stumbles across a trail or other feature that was not on the inventory, everything must stop until that feature is explored, GPS inventoried, and incorporated into the trail concept plan as either a designated or closed route. Paying for good data upfront can save project dollars and time later on in the process.
Given the knowledge of the project area, the vision, the understanding of the vehicles to be accommodated, and the desired recreation experiences to be provided, and the inventory map, the planner can now sit down and start mapping out a conceptual trail system. In designing a trail system, the planner must understand:
This is a complex and cerebral process and, depending on the size of the project area, it can be a huge task. If there isn’t someone on the planning team who is qualified to perform this task, it might be beneficial to consult with a professional trail planner. This is also a good time to talk about the importance of developing open, honest working relationships with the resource specialists. These relationships must be based on unbiased professionalism and trust. Without that, the cohesiveness and the effectiveness of the planning team could be diminished.
The planning for the Shoshone OHV Trail System in north central Nevada began in 2003. The members of the local club, the Northern Nevada ATV Association, were excited and anxious to get a new riding opportunity. They spent years attending meetings with stakeholders, the county, and the Bureau of Land Management. The environmental analysis process took years to complete and then was further delayed by an appeal. During that time, there was a change in the county commissioners and support at that level was no longer assured. It took eight years before construction could finally begin and by then the energy of the club had waned, membership had dropped, some members had developed health problems, and others had quit out of frustration. Without the dedication and persistence of the club, the project may not have come to fruition.
Not only is the development of the trail concept plan a huge step in the process, it is the first step that produces a tangible visualization of what the project will look like. Up until now, there is usually only a map with a project area boundary on it. Having a visual can stimulate and encourage the planning team and invigorate the clubs and potential volunteers. Getting from project inception to trail concept plan can take years. It is very difficult for any group, especially one made up of volunteers, to maintain energy and enthusiasm for that long of a period. The trail concept plan is a good tool to take to the stakeholders so they can see how the proposed trails may affect their interests. Lastly, having the trail concept plan in hand is a huge advantage when seeking grants or other funding opportunities.
The development of the trail concept plan is the true foundation of the trail system, and it is such an important step it is discussed more thoroughly in the next chapter. Once the trail concept plan has been reviewed and any necessary revisions made, the next step is to develop alternatives if necessary.
The trail management objectives (TMOs) document describes the use and management of a trail and outlines the following:
By documenting this data, TMOs provide continuity as well as operation and maintenance consistency. Personnel will change, but the trail will still be on the ground and the new personnel will need to know the vision and intent. Over time, the TMOs should be reviewed and revised as use, use type, climate, and landscape changes occur.
The TMOs are the thread that weaves the continuum together. The designer must know the intended user, the intended difficulty level, and how the trail will be constructed. Construction personnel must know the user and the difficulty so that technical features like rocks, logs, and roots can be left or removed. Maintenance personnel must understand the use, the desired experience, and difficulty in order to properly maintain the trail (so they know to cut out a log or keep a technical feature). Whoever is inspecting the trail needs to understand the resource values and determine if they are becoming impacted. That person also needs to determine if the trail is still providing the desired experience or difficulty level and ascertain if maintenance, reconstruction, or relocation is warranted.
A lot of good solid data and work has gone into the formation of the trail concept plan, so it can often be used as the proposed action in the environmental analysis process. Each agency, state, or province has different legal requirements and processes for environmental review. It is absolutely critical that their requirements be identified and followed. Environmental review can add months or years to the project planning but that time period can be reduced by having a solid trail concept plan based on sustainability and resource protection.
On federal land in the United States, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) legislates the environmental review process. Under that umbrella, each federal agency then adopts additional regulations and policies for their jurisdictions. There are three levels to NEPA and each level increases in process and complexity.
Scoping is an essential component in the NEPA process. While not every project goes through the NEPA process, in every project area, there are individuals or groups who have an interest in the area or who could be directly affected by the project. Scoping needs to be done to determine the interests and then a contact list should be developed and those stakeholders notified of the project and its progress. This is important because any or all of the interests may have issues or concerns with the proposed trails in the project area. It is far better to flush those issues out early, rather than to have irate opponents surface later. When all of the issues are on the table, planners can address them either by changing the trail concept plan, developing another alternative, or changing the scope or level of mitigations. Time allows the planners to better understand the issues and also allows the opportunity to build a working relationship with the interested publics.
There are two types of interested publics: special interest groups and stakeholders. Special interest groups have an indirect interest, advocacy, or philosophical position. These groups lobby for a position and they could be OHV groups, conservation groups, or timber groups. Stakeholders are individuals, groups, or entities that have a direct and active interest in the project site. Stakeholders could include riding club(s), private inholders, range permittees, timber interests, mining interests, other tenure holders, neighboring residents, utility companies with corridors through the project site, irrigation districts, tribes and First Nations, hunters, and other trail user groups.
The NEPA process was followed for the Lost Ox OHV Trail System in Ely, Nevada. An EA was prepared, a FONSI was signed, and there were no appeals. Grants were secured and a contract was let to perform trail layout and design. Several months later, four hunters realized that the project could affect “their interests”. They went to the county commissioners and got their support in opposition to the project. That group had been in favor of the project until a recent election changed the commissioners. Then the hunters went to the media and started beating the war drums of emotionalism. A town hall meeting was held followed by more meetings with the Bureau of Land Management. The result? The Decision was vacated, the contract cancelled, the project forever dropped, and a loss of more than $1 million in grant funds. The NEPA process was followed, but could the outcome have been different with more scoping and public involvement early on?
Sometimes the stakeholders are brought together as a group with regular meeting dates. These can be called an advisory committee, oversight committee, or steering committee. These committees can be a good forum for an open discussion of the issues, but they can also be a forum for heated debate, collusion of interests, and shifting focus to positions (to interests that impede rather than expedite the process). If a group is formed, an experienced and impartial moderator should facilitate the group to keep it focused and moving in a positive direction.
Involvement means building trustful working relationships, even with people who may have very different philosophies. Successfully working with multiple interest groups can be like walking a tightrope. Smiles and sincerity can open doors; negative body language and careless remarks or actions can close them. A wise man once said that there is a time to talk and a time to listen. The wise approach when walking into a new group is to listen first and talk second or not talk at all. By listening, planners can better understand issues, agendas, underlying motivations, and under the table alliances. Listening builds trust and allows planners time to mold their thoughts into effective comments.
Change happens often in planning, including with use levels; use types; climate; sensitive plants and animals appear and disappear; sometimes trail locations, grades, and structures are tried, but they didn’t work as expected; and sometimes there are errors in the initial planning or implementation that need to be corrected. Since a trail lays on a dynamic landscape, the trail and its management must be dynamic. In the NEPA process, two ways to facilitate change are 1) survey and assess the effects of a trail corridor, not just a trail, and 2) include adaptive management verbiage in the NEPA document.
SDome people vehemently dislike OHVs. This sentiment can complicate the planning process as managers and planners need to sort out the physical issues from the emotional issues. Physical issues can usually be addressed and mitigated; emotional issues are more difficult to resolve. The issue of sound can be mitigated, but “I don’t like OHV noise” cannot. Because of this, it is critical that the OHV club provides support to the planners and land managers and that they speak with a unified voice.
Let’s go back to the Lost Ox OHV Trail System in Ely, Nevada. The project was initiated by the BLM in an effort to be pro-active in providing for and managing the rise in OHV use. There was no local ATV club, so there was no local support base. Even though there are a lot of ATVs used for ranching and hunting, most of those users did not see the benefit in developing a trail system since they could already ride almost anywhere they wanted. So when the support of the county commissioners was lost and the media turned negative and there was a public outcry to stop the project, the BLM was left standing alone and they couldn’t support the project.
Several other components or building blocks are necessary to complete the planning foundation. Just as having broad-based support builds solidity, planning documents also add to the solidarity of the project. They can answer questions before they are asked, can address concerns early on, and put the planners and managers in a proactive, knowledgeable position. These documents include the management plan, sign plan, map, architectural theme, barrier design, monitoring plan, interpretive plan, and rehabilitation and erosion control plan
Management Plan. A management plan provides programmatic direction and guidance, and includes these key components:
The steps in the planning process include:
If the project is an area with existing unmanaged OHV use, there could be a maze of user-created trails, resource impacts, social conflicts, negative media, and public outcry. All of these can complicate the planning process because it becomes difficult to separate the past from the present and future. There is another element—fear. Fear over what has happened in the past and fear over what could happen in the future.
Some tips to help deal with those issues and build positive relationships:
Some Great Trail planning strategies:
Here are some of the planning elements discussed in this chapter:
Know Before You Go. Find Out Before You Ride Out. Up to this point, the only visual concept of the project may have been a project area boundary displayed on a map or perhaps a boundary with a bubble-diagram of potential facilities or opportunities. The trail concept plan will be the first tangible document that displays what the vision could look like on the ground. It’s an exciting step.
The trail concept requires a broad vision. What will be provided and what could it look like? But vision doesn’t end there. For a quality project, vision will be required in every step of the planning, design, and implementation process. In developing the concept plan, planners should shift their vision from the regional scale down to the landscape scale. Creative vision will be required to search for opportunities that may not be so obvious and to link those opportunities into a trail system of logical loops that will provide quality recreation experiences and resource protection.
Developing a concept plan is like working on a giant jigsaw puzzle. The vision, inventory, resource data, opportunities, and constraints are the pieces. How do they all fit together? Can they fit together in more than one way?
The first step is to have a thorough knowledge of the project area. In developing a concept plan, the planners must understand:
The answers to these questions will affect how the various pieces of the puzzle are fit together. Time to get started.
Just like the jigsaw puzzle analogy, the best place to start is by assembling the obvious pieces like the border. For the trail concept plan, this equates to examining the constraints and eliminating the “no-go” zones, marking out the “partial-go” zones, and identifying the “don’t-want-to-go” zones. A query of the GIS resource layers should quickly identify polygons for these three zones.
Control points are features that have a direct influence on where a trail goes. There are two types of controls: a place where riders have to be (positive control point), and a place where riders can’t be (negative control point). The planners’ first trips to the project area should focus on identifying control points. The more of these that are found early on, the more solid the trail concept plan will be. When an impassable ravine or other feature not previously identified is found, the process can come to a halt. The feature needs to be added to the concept plan and the trail corridors adjusted accordingly. Sometimes these adjustments can significantly alter the concept plan, and that consumes time and project dollars.
Some common positive control points are trail termini, road and creek crossings, points of interest, etc.
Termini of the Trail. Certainly, the first thing planners need to know is where a trail starts and ends. Does it start at the trailhead, staging area, campground, or someplace else? With existing facilities, sometimes the termini are obvious, but if the project area is a clean slate, the first order of business is to determine where the trailheads, campgrounds, or other facilities will be located. Depending on the site, this task can be a challenge.
Road Crossings. First of all, is it legal to cross the road? If it is legal, where are the crossing locations that have flat approach grades and adequate sight distance given the speed of the traffic on the road. Some road crossings may require a permit from the road authority. If so, these should be obtained early in the planning process.
Points of Interest. Planners should identify unique features, interpretive points, and naturally occuring features which add interest and seat time to the riders’ experience.
Creek Crossings. Every agency and area has different criteria for stream crossings, especially if it is a fish-bearing stream or a tributary to a community water source. The first thing planners need to do is determine the classification for the stream and any associated agency, state, federal, or provincial laws or regulations. As with roads, some streams may require a permit with seasonal constraints to work in the stream.
Prohibited Areas. What are the areas where a trail can’t be put? These areas are usually dictated by resource management rather than by the physical characteristics of the site. As no-go zones, they become negative control points. Examples of these areas are rare or sensitive vegetation areas, bald eagle management areas (BEMAs), areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs), and community water intakes or water reservoirs.
Cultural resource sites usually fall into the no-go category; however, if they are subsurface, sometimes they can be crossed if they are mitigated by trail hardening or by additional monitoring of the tread depth. Seek and follow the recommendations of the archaeologist.
Private property boundaries and agency boundaries are generally no-go areas unless agreements are in place to cross into areas of other ownership. The lease or tenure boundaries for active mineral extraction are generally no-go areas depending on how firm the project area boundary is.
Closely associated with flat ground are wet areas: riparian areas, bogs, wetlands, springs, or any area where the water table is at or close to the ground surface. These areas have saturated soils and are rich in flora and fauna diversity. It is best to avoid them. Wet areas are certainly red flag areas and usually become negative control points.
Large, open grassy, or sparsely vegetated areas go on this list also. Unless there is some topography or rocks, it is difficult to maintain the integrity of a serpentine alignment in these areas since riders can see the next curve and cut cross-country to intercept it. The alignment eventually becomes braided and straight. Unless natural or manmade barriers are used to protect the alignment, the designers are forced to flag in a very lazy S that is close to straight. This increases speed, increases impacts, and decreases seat time.
This next phase is the fun part. It’s time for the planners and designers to look at desirable terrain.
The ideal ground has a 15 to 45 percent sideslope with deep, stable soil and vegetative cover. Trees are preferred over brush, brush over grass, grass over a barren slope. Patches of thick trees or brush allow the designers to lay in a tight, technical serpentine alignment that slows down the riders, adds seat time, adds difficulty, and adds trail distance. Dense vegetation helps control tread width and protects the integrity of the alignment by deterring short-cutting of the curves.
A challenge for the planners and designers is to provide technical difficulty for the riders and still have a durable trail. For ultimate durability, look for rocks: boulder fields, rock gardens, solid slab rock that is on a slope, rimrock, slickrock, rock ledges or stepups, and hummocky broken ground. Rock provides opportunities for challenging trails while still maintaining durability.
Where do riders (or any recreationists) want to go?
What do all of these six items have in common? They all provide a destination, a goal for the ride; they all provide photo opportunities; they all extend the time the riders are on the trail; they all provide an opportunity for riders to socialize with their group, which is an important element in OHV recreation; and they all add to the quality of the recreation experience. Around the campfire at the end of the day, these will be the highlights that everyone will talk about. These are the places that riders want to go. If at all possible, the planners should get them there.
Planning a trail concept is a tough mental process and should not be done hastily. At this point, planners should put down the trail concept plan for a couple of days. Then they can go back and review the plan again. Planners should review if they have maximized the opportunities and minimized the constraints. Can they add more loops or miles? Do they see something differently? If they do, then they can fine-tune the plan. If they don’t and still agree with all of the previous decisions, it’s time to move on.
Once planners are satisfied with the quality of the product, they can start building a database or spreadsheet with the following trail information:
Planners should now present the completed trail concept plan on an appropriate base map that at least displays topography, administrative and project boundaries, and key resource areas to the planning team and the project management. When the draft is reviewed and approved by the specialists, the planners should present the proposed concept plan to OHV clubs or other interested stakeholders. If substantive comments are received, planners should incorporate them into the trail concept plan, or if the comments call for a different approach, they should incorporate it into an alternative.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DN) managed larger areas of land that contained no designated OHV routes, however unauthorized OHV use was taking place, leading to resource degradation. The Department realized that closure along would not solve the issue of unmanaged OHV recreation; they also needed to provide designated areas for OHV use. The DNR began working with local riders to develop a plan. Initially, they considered creating a test area that would prove the concept that providing OHV recreation was a part of managing OHV use. This this end, they developed a concept plan containing 15 miles of trail with a difficulty level of easiest. To validate this idea, they shared the concept with OHV consultants. After a review, the consultants agreed that providing OHV designated routes was a great move, however, the test area needed to be an OHV destination with miles of quality trails and varying difficulty levels. Having only one small designated OHV area with only easiest difficulty level trails can lead to further resource damage. Riders want to do the right thing and stay on designated trails. Too few trails can lead to resource damage from over-use. Not meeting the riders’ needs for skill level can lead to user-created trails.
The Maryland DNR is now working to develop an alternate concept plan which will better meet the needs of the riders. Had the DNR not sent their concept plan out for review, they may have built a trail system that would have failed to meet the riders’ needs.
If it is necessary to develop alternatives, now is the time to do that. In developing the concept plan, planners have analyzed a lot of data and made myriad decisions. At this stage, planners should keep most of what they have, but take the options that they didn’t use and incorporate them into alternatives. Then they can develop a trail database for each alternative.
Generic design guidelines can be written for each type of trail and will give broad design parameters for an OHM trail, ATV trail, ROV trail, or 4WD trail. Sometimes, the guidelines are called design parameters, but the term “guidelines” is preferred because it infers flexibility (the word “parameters” can infer a set of limits). The design guidelines can be used in environmental documents to help establish acres of impact. They also give the stakeholders, and eventually the trail designers, a description of the intended vision for each type of trail.
It should be noted that a guideline is just that: a guide that gives potential ranges. Those ranges can and will change from the north side to the south side of the area and as soil type and vegetative cover changes. Some design guidelines have been developed for national application but that just won’t work because there are too many regional and local variables. It is best to take a sample guideline and modify it for local conditions based on local knowledge and field experience.
Some guidelines are also becoming so detailed that, if interpreted literally, the designers can be or feel restricted from seizing onsite opportunities. The have also been applied as the “rule” but this doesn’t work either. There are principles, but few rules. This book is about making informed decisions based on actual site conditions. Planners can’t do that if their decision space is administratively removed.
It is too early in the process to develop trail management objectives (TMO) for each trail, but a generic TMO document can be written for each type of trail separated by difficulty level. This will provide important information and continuity to the person doing the location and design. Once the trails are located on the ground and all adjustments have been made to the concept plan, trail numbers, names, and agency identifiers will be added and the trail concept plan will then become the design plan or final project plan. At that time, TMOs can be written for each trail. If there is a need for the management of the trail to change, the TMOs should be updated.
The process of developing the concept plan is now complete; however, the plan is a working document so it will change as better resource data, additional inventory data, or better field knowledge of the project site is obtained. It is important to point out that a concept plan is just that, a concept. Its accuracy and completeness are directly dependent on the amount of time invested in the field and office to develop it. Some plans are compiled in a couple of days, and others are developed over a period of weeks or months.
The plan will now be handed over to the person doing the trail location and design (L&D). Certainly, for a seamless, consistent, and cost-efficient process, it is highly desirable for the planner and the designer to be one in the same. The designer will take to the field and perform a thorough reconnaissance of the entire project area; that person will validate or complete the road and trail inventory data; confirm the control points and look for others; and start to ground-truth the feasibility of the concept plan. Obviously, the more time spent in developing the concept plan, the less time will be needed to validate it and refine it. To do a good job of trail layout, the designer will need to become familiar with nearly every square foot of the project area, which can involve a considerable investment of time and money. That is why it is cost-effective for the planner and designer to be one in the same. The designer can build on the previous knowledge base of the field, rather than starting from zero.
|Sample ATV Design & Difficulty Guidlines|
|These sample guidelines are to assist in design, construction, and maintenance. Any guideline should be adjusted to reflect local experience and actual site conditions.|
|Easiest||More Difficult||Most Difficult|
Grade should roll and not be sustained
|Typical grade:||< 20%||< 25%||< 30%|
|Max. Pitch:||Maximum grades are the exception, not the rule|
|Grade:||15% - 20%||20% - 30%||> 30%|
|Length:||Variable 50' - 100' dependant on soils,use type and use intensity, and climate. As grade increases, length on grade should decrease.|
|Clearing||Width:||60" to 72"||50" to 60"||50" Maximum|
|Helmet and leg slappers:||Few||Many||Common|
|Sideslope 25% - 70%:||60" to 72"||55" to 60"||50"|
|Surface||Some roots or rocks, obstacles rarely exceed 6-8" and are imbedded solidly in tread; obstacles generally on tangents; tread plane relatively flat with 15% max. outslope for short sections; sweeping curves and some circular climbing turns, more open alignment with circular longer radius curves; sand acceptable and some sections of slippery clay or loose material.||Many roots or rocks, obstacles rarely exceed 8-10" and are loose; obstacles on tangents and some on curves; tread plane flat to irregular with 25% max. outslope for short sections and long sections with less outslope; climbing turns and some circular switchbacks; sections of tight alignment with circular short and long radius curves; sand acceptable and long sections of slippery clay or loose material.||Very many roots or rocks; many obtacles exceed 10"; obstacles on tangents and curves; tread plane very rough and irregular with long sections exceeding 25% outslope; non-circular climbing turns and switchbacks; long sections of very tight alignment with non-circular curves; entire trail may be soft sand, slippery clay, loose material or mud.|
|Exposure||None||Some, potential injury||Could be common, potential serious injury|
|Maintenance||Trails receive appropriate maintenance to remain within their TMO, maintain effective signing, and to protect resource values.|
Here are some of the key trail concept plan development elements discussed in this chapter:
The project planners must understand:
As planners compile and refine their data, they must:
In assembling the data into a trail concept plan, planners should:
Plan Your Ride, Ride Your Plan Providing for the rider’s needs is one of the key elements for success discussed in Chapter 1. Those needs were examined in Chapter 2 and incorporated into the trail concept plan in Chapter 3. The link between getting those needs on the ground and designing for sustainability is covered in this chapter on engineering.
Vision without Action is a Daydream
Action without Vision is a Nightmare
Vision and Action without Engineering Ensures Disaster
The three trail types are terra firma or land, water, and over-snow. For the purposes of this book, terra firma trails are discussed. The winter use of summer trails and the summer use of winter trails (snowmobile trails used for OHV trails) are discussed later in this book.
Engineers see the world in a three-dimensional view that allows them to take any point along a trail and view it on paper or on the computer in 3-D. The three views are the plan view, the profile view, and the cross-section view. The plan view is from the top looking down on the horizontal alignment of the trail. The horizontal alignment is comprised of a series of tangents (straight lines) and curves (arcs). The shorter the tangents, the more serpentine or curvilinear the trail becomes. A curvilinear trail provides more flow, and a linear or straight trail provides less horizontal flow. While the linear trail appears to be fast and boring, it does have its place in the realm of OHV trail design.
It is human nature to want hard numbers: what is right and what is wrong? Many people will ask, “How steep is too steep?” As is often the case, the answer is, “It depends.” The next question people ask is, “Then what is a range or a guideline?” This is a trap not only because of site variables but also because guidelines tend to become rules.
One such rule is that all trails should be outsloped at 5%. In principle, there is nothing wrong with outslope. Every opportunity to get water off the trail is a benefit. The tread shape, however, will change over time from the shape it had right after construction through the forces of compaction, displacement, and erosion. Unless the tread is regularly maintained or is hardened to maintain its shape, the outslope will likely fail, especially with OHV trails. It’s a trap for designers to assume that outslope will work. On curves, outsloped trails can be awkward to ride in a motorized vehicle. On tangents, riders will tend to hug the upslope edge and potentially widen out the trail. In areas with slippery soils and steeper terrain, an outsloped trail can increase the difficulty level by increasing the exposure or risk of the vehicles and riders sliding off the trail.
Another rule is called the half rule. It states that a trail grade should not exceed 50% of the grade of the sideslope, so on a sideslope of 30%, the trail grade shouldn’t exceed 15%. The theory is that if the tread is outsloped, overland water will sheet across the trail if the grade is less than 50% of the sideslope, but will be intercepted by and run down the tread if the grade is more than 50% of the sideslope. This is a trap. On motorized trails, the outslope will likely fail; the tread will become a trench; and water will be intercepted by and run down the trail. While flatter grades are a definite benefit, designers of a motorized trail should always assume that any water intercepted by the trail will run down the trail. The key point for the designers is to recognize that the steeper the grade, the more velocity the water will have, so the length of the grade needs to be shorter to reduce the potential for scouring and sedimentation.
Things that make OHV trails unique from a design and sustainability standpoint are the vehicles themselves which have a motor, weigh more than most other trail modalities, and have torque of a wheel under power. These all create forces that are applied to the ground. Designing for sustainability requires understanding how the forces of compaction, displacement, and erosion impact the trail.
Compaction is the downward force of the vehicle onto the ground. The amount of this force is influenced by the weight of the vehicle, occupants and gear, the number of tires, and the size and inflation pressure of the tires. Compaction is measured as pounds per square inch (PSI). As the contact area of the ground increases, the PSI of contact decreases. A 500-pound vehicle with four tires has more contact area, thus less PSI, than the same vehicle with two tires. In snow, sand, and mud, riders typically decrease the air pressure in their tires. This gives them more grip because their tires have more contact area.
Displacement is the physical movement of the trailbed surface particles as a result of the ground contact and torque of the vehicle. The softer and less cohesive the trailbed surface is, the higher the potential for displacement. Displacement is a force caused from human and animal interaction with nature, such as from tires, horse or other animals, a person walking, etc. A tire with high air pressure will generally cause more displacement than the same tire with lower pressure.
Erosion is the movement of the tread surface particles due to natural causes like water and wind. Again, the softer and less cohesive the trailbed surface is, the higher the potential for erosion. If displacement has also occurred, the potential for erosion increases since soil particles have already been loosened and ruts have been created to channel the water and thus increase its velocity and potential for scour.
For every action, there is a reaction
You cannot touch something without it touching you
You cannot touch someone without being touched
When OHV tires are put on a newly constructed trail, compaction will start almost immediately and will cause the trail tread to compress. Naturally, the compaction will occur the most wherever the tires have had the most passes over any one place on the surface. For a single-track OHM trail, the compaction will be mostly in the center of the trail, but on an ATV, ROV, and 4WD trail, the compaction will create two ruts on either side of the center. Over time, the entire compacted tread will be lower than the untrafficked tread and potentially lower than the surrounding ground.
There are some special considerations when the OHV has four instead of two wheels. One obvious difference is that now there can be at least two drive tires next to each other (two-wheel drive OHMs have a single drive tire forward and rear) delivering rotational forces and potential displacement forces to the ground. Depending on tire size, inflation pressures, actual vehicle size, and weight and loading, those forces may or may not exceed those exerted by a motorcycle. The real difference, though, comes into play on curves.
The third force is erosion, which is the movement or removal of the tread surface particles due to natural causes like wind and water. Poor trail design and lack of effective drainage can accelerate erosion. Soil particles displaced by vehicle tires are more susceptible to erosion. Vehicle operation during periods when the soils are most susceptible to displacement, such as very dry or very wet (saturated), can create ruts that channel water and increases its velocity and scouring action.
With any natural surface trail, the vegetation at the surface gets removed and roots that hold soil either get cut through construction or broken through use. These actions weaken the soil and expose it to the forces of compaction, displacement, and erosion. Compaction can help minimize displacement. If displacement is minimized so is erosion potential; therefore, compaction helps reduce erosion also.
Many soil types appear to be stable at a given time of year, level of use, and moisture content. Change any of those three variables and the soil stability will change, which means that the potential for displacement will change. Clay soils turn to gumbo when wet. Sandy soils turn to flour when dry. Soils with low stability cannot endure a high volume of use in a short duration of time, as in an OHV event or race, unless they are frozen or have the optimum moisture content, which rarely happens.
Evaluation or monitoring is the fourth E in the 4Es discussed in Chapter 1. Whoever is monitoring a trail needs to have an eye trained to spot those little rills and sediment deposits and watch for the gradual filling of drainage structures so that maintenance can be scheduled in a timely manner. If this is not done and the deposits are allowed to accumulate, the next major rain event could wipe out the drainage structures and create severe trail damage, extensive sedimentation, and unneeded resource impacts. Just as important as scheduling maintenance is to have that monitoring person take the next step and ask: “Where is this water coming from? Can we reduce or eliminate it?” This is what the 4Es are all about: asking why and implementing adaptive management. Too often, the issue is overlooked and these questions are not asked as the person climbs on his OHV and rides on up the trail. In doing so, the trail manager is taken from a potential proactive position and placed in a potential reactive position after the real damage occurs. Chapter 2 stressed that assessments need to be done on foot. On a machine, managers are traveling faster and are focused on other things besides the little insidious forces at work on the trail tread. Managers can see more, understand more, and be more effective on foot.
It was discussed previously how erosion has washed away the fines and left a rock garden on this section of trail. What if that water has no direct connectivity to a stream? What if this trail had a higher difficulty level? What if our options to relocate this long grade are limited? Is it okay to accept this? Under certain conditions, the answer can be yes. For example, as long as signing and mapping reflect the appropriate difficulty level, the trail could be managed as More Difficult. On the easier trail sections on both ends, some simple entrance management techniques could be implemented to indicate to the riders that there will be more difficult sections to negotiate.
Natural surface trails generally use the native soil as the tread surface. Some soils are more stable and durable than others. Indeed, soil type is one of the key elements, if not the key element, in trail design. Unless the soil is modified or hardened, it will dictate the steepness of grade, tightness of alignment, frequency of drainage, smoothness of the trailbed surface, and the level of difficulty. Tread materials are generally composed of a mixture of soil and rock.
Soils are composed of different mixtures of sand, silt, and clay (called the soil separates) with the additives of organic matter (humus) and larger mineral fragments such as gravel-sized material. The mixtures of the soil separates define the texture of the soil and the texture influences the behavior of the soil. Will it drain? Will it displace? Will it be slippery? It is very common for the soil type or soil mix to change several times on any given trail, so the designers must be constantly watching for these changes and adjust the design accordingly.
Clay soils have the smallest particle size and the particles are shaped like flat platelets. The platelet shape makes clay very durable when there is sufficient moisture to bind the particles together. They can hold a lot of water, which makes them poor draining, and when wet, those platelets slide over each other, which is what makes a clay soil so slippery. Clay has high cohesion and that means it holds onto and binds particles together. That’s why it feels sticky when moist. A quick field test is to take a handful of the soil, apply enough water so the sample is moist (wet, but not saturated), and then make a fist to form it into a ball. A clay soil will form a ball. Then rub hands together to try to roll the material into a pencil shape. A clay soil will roll into a pencil; the thinner the pencil, the higher the clay content.
Silt soils are the next larger particle size though the particles are still small and not visible. Silt feels smooth like flour. Due to their particle size, there are numerous voids between them, so they can hold a lot of water but not as much as clay, so they drain better than clay. Silt has medium cohesion, so it will also bind particles together to make a firm trail tread. In the field test, a silty soil will form a ball and feel smooth, will not be as sticky as clay, and will not roll into a pencil.
Sand has the largest particle size and is visible and gritty. The pores between the particles are large, so water drains through them very easily. Pure sand has no cohesion and does not bind with other particles, so sand does not compact and is therefore easily displaced. In the field test, pure sand will not form a ball and will disintegrate easily when pressed lightly.
Rarely is a soil one pure particle type. Instead, it is a mixture of the three soil separates, which is a good thing since pure soils are not desirable for a trail tread. When mixed together though, the soil, which is called loam, tends to have more of the advantages of each of its components and less of the disadvantages. The relationship between the particle types is often displayed in what is called the soil triangle with clay, silt, and sand in each of the three corners and the combinations of loam near the center.
These materials are a benefit to any trail tread because they provide weight bearing and durability by resisting the forces of compaction, displacement, and erosion. They also add to the natural character of the trail, so they increase the rider experience. A challenge for OHV trail designers is how to provide challenge and still have sustainability. Rocks can help provide that opportunity. Soils with a high angular rock content may allow the designers to increase the grade. Exposed bedrock, firmly embedded rocks, slab rock, slick rock, and boulders can provide outstanding technical challenge while maintaining tread durability.
In trail design, speed and water create issues, but both can be managed through proper design. Designers can roll the grade to force water off the trail at regular intervals. Many factors influence how water is forced off the trail, including soil type, topography type, frequency and intensity of use, control points, trail grade, tread width, vegetation (ground cover and tree canopy), climate (arid or wet), and seasonal weather patterns (potential for high-intensity thunderstorms). All of these can affect the amount of water collecting on the trail tread and the behavior of that water. To manage that water, designers need to focus on not only the water on the trail but also the sources of that water. Certainly, as it rains water is falling directly onto the trail tread, but it is also falling on the land above the trail. Some of this water is absorbed into the ground, some of it runs as an overland flow onto the trail, and some of it drains as a subsurface flow and spurts like a spring in the trail. How much water is this and how does it influence the design? Determining how much water may enter the trail profile involves looking at the bigger picture of the landscape and dividing it into tread watersheds.
The tread watershed is the area from one grade crest to the next grade crest and all of the land that drains into it from the top of the ridge or a topographic crest.
The topography of the site controls the height of the tread watershed, but designers can control the length of the watershed. Through the actions of compaction, displacement, and erosion, the tread sinks over time and the integrity of whatever shape it had at the time of construction is usually lost. When the tread sinks, it traps the water and the tread becomes a conduit or channel for the water to run. The water will run from the top of the grade crest to the bottom of the grade sag. The longer water runs on a grade, the more velocity it gains, and the more potential it has for scour or sediment delivery. This is called runoff erosion. To increase sustainability, these runs must be as short as possible.
The designers control water by rolling the grade, which not only helps make the trail sustainable, it enhances the rider experience and fun factor. This is one advantage of designing for OHVs: with a motor, riders don’t mind going up, back down, and up again. It’s not a chore, it’s fun.
In order to roll the grades and provide point drainage, designers must have the trail on a sideslope. Flat ground with flat grades does not allow the designers to control the size of the tread watershed and it becomes difficult to drain the water away from the trail.
Water Volume + Water Velocity = Increased Runoff Erosion Potential
Runoff erosion is created by water volume and speed, but there is another type of erosion: splash erosion. The force of the water, even a raindrop, hitting the surface dislodges soil particles and can actually make little craters in the soil. This displaced soil then becomes subject to being carried away by surface water. A tree canopy can act like an umbrella by intercepting the initial force of the raindrops and allowing them to fall gently to the ground below. By locating a trail in the trees, the potential for splash erosion can be reduced. Ground cover and the accumulation of vegetative litter also protect the soil from splash erosion.
Designers should keep trail grades as low as possible. What does that mean? Increasing grade increases the risk of erosion, but increasing grade also enhances the rider experience. If the rolling grades on the trail never exceeded 10%, it would probably be quite sustainable, but how fun would it be to ride? Providing for the riders’ needs has been a fundamental guiding principle throughout this book. The designers must be constantly assessing the risk factors in each segment of a trail and weighing reduced grade vs. increased rider satisfaction. The designers should ask if they can push the grade at this point or not. If not, what other options can be employed to enhance the experience? Trail layout and design involves a very complex mental process of asking questions and answering them. The intent of this book is to teach designers and planners which questions to ask.
|Risk Factor||Lower Risk||Moderate Risk||Higher Risk|
|For the Tread|
|Tread Grade||< 12%||12% - 20%||> 20%|
|Length of Tread Watershed||Short||Medium||Long|
|Stability of Tread Material||High||Medium||Low|
|Tree Canopy Over Tread||Thick, continuous||Intermittent||None|
|For the Watershed Above Tread|
|Slope||< 20%||20% - 40%||> 40%|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, sandy||Loamy, moderately drained||High rock content, clay, impervious|
|Vegatative Cover||Thick forest, thick litter cover||Medium vegatation, grassy, shrubby, no litter||Ligh vegatation, bare soil|
The higher the number of risk factors, the shorter the tread watershed should be unless other mitigations are implemented like hardening or ditching.
It is important to understand the elements of resource sustainability: engineering, the physical forces, soils, and water. This gives a better understanding of the natural environment and how to create a great and sustainable trail.
Who needs this understanding? ALL field personnel. The trail planners and designers, but also the people conducting assessments or condition surveys, maintenance personnel, key volunteers and partners, construction supervisors, and the managers all need to have the ability to look at a piece of ground and understand what is or could be going on there. With that knowledge, they can be pro-active and implement adaptive management in a timely fashion. It isn’t by accident that all of these personnel fit into the Great Trail Continuum. A great trail is only created by effectively and equally applying all five elements of the continuum together.
Here are some of the elements discussed in this chapter:
Riding Takes All of Your Wits, Don't Impair Them The most important and gratifying part of creating great trails occurs in the field. The saying that even a bad day in the field is better than a good day in the office is very true. The field is where the creative juices can flow; where there are options, challenges, and opportunities; and where all of the pieces of the puzzle come together. The planning and design team members can apply their understanding of the landscape, environment, recreation use, and physical forces to make informed decisions that will most benefit the riders while ensuring the protection of the resources. To make effective use of the time in the field, team members need to arm themselves with tools and techniques and have as much knowledge of the area as possible.
Be prepared. What if a team member gets hurt or what if the team has to spend the night in the field? Does someone know where the team is and when it is expected to return? Do team members have a dependable source of communication? Here is a list of things to consider carrying in a daypack:
Certainly, one of the best things to do to keep the odds in a team’s favor is to carry and use personal protective equipment (PPE). This may include riding gear, chainsaw gear, climbing gear, hardhats, high visibility vests, etc. There is no valid excuse to not wear it. Manage risk and keep everyone safe. No one can do trail work if they’re hurt.
I was locating a trail in a remote part of Nevada. It was May and the temperatures had been hitting 85◦F. I had a late start in the morning and it was already warm. It took me 45 minutes to ride my motorcycle from the end of the road to where I had to start walking, and it took another hour and a half to hike up to the top of the ridge where I needed to start flagging. By the time I got to the top of the ridge, a cold front had blown in and the temperature dropped 40 degrees. I was soaked with sweat from the long hike, and the wind was howling on the exposed ridge top. I tried to get out of the wind to have an early lunch, but there was no place that offered protection. The wind was blowing so hard, it blew the lettuce out of my sandwich as I was taking a bite. I started to feel myself get cold and I knew I was at risk of getting hypothermic. I started trail reconnaissance after lunch, but could not warm up with the incessant wind.
I was at risk, by myself with no dependable communication, and no one knew exactly where I was. I had to make a choice: take the risk and try to get some work done or walk back down to the bike and head in. I chose the latter, so I expended a lot of energy and time and got nothing done. That was the last time I went to the field unprepared…
- Dick Dufourd
Whether doing reconnaissance of a project site, assessing an existing trail, performing trail layout and design, or establishing construction controls, the team needs to have an array of tools available to help perform whatever task is needed. Once in the field, the office, supply room, and shop are in team members’ day packs.
Consider taking a variety of key instruments and tools.
A clinometer is an invaluable little device used to measure the percent of slope or degree of slope between any two points. It requires binocular vision and takes a little practice to use, but it is the number one companion of any trail designer. The clinometer is not highly accurate and if it gets knocked around in the field it can lose calibration. There is no calibration adjustment, but a good test is to shoot the grade to the uphill point and then once there, shoot the grade back to the downhill point. If they are off by 3 or more percent, it’s time for a new one.
A GPS receiver uses global positioning satellites to pinpoint position, track progress, approximate elevation, and establish waypoints. Many have a built-in camera, radio, barometer, compass, or other handy features. Even recreation grade units are highly accurate. Team members should learn how to navigate and use the TRACKBACK or GOTO features on the GPS before they need them.
Taking handwritten notes or typing in waypoint data on a GPS receiver can be laborious. Instead, it’s faster and easier to record the data on a voice recorder. This data can be digitally downloaded and saved to a computer. A voice recorder app on a smartphone can also be used.
Though a lot of other devices have built-in cameras, a quality pocket-sized digital camera still takes better pictures and offers more functions. Because there can never be enough photos taken in the field, it’s a good idea to have one at all times. Don’t forget a fully charged spare battery. A flexible mini-tripod is also handy to capture the perfect shot.
Roll-up 100-foot cloth tapes are very handy for measuring or designing structures or facilities.
Small multi-blade, multi-function tools are invaluable in the field.
An Abney level is the predecessor of the clinometer and measures percent and degrees of slope. It is larger and requires both hands to use, but when calibrated properly, it can be more accurate than a clinometer and it doesn’t require binocular vision to use. If the team wants to establish a pre-determined grade line, members can set the grade on the scale and lock it in place. When the crosshair splits the bubble as members sight their target, they are on the grade they want. Unlike the clinometer, the Abney can be re-calibrated and set to zero and used as a hand level.
A hand level is a level only, so it does not measure slope. It is far more accurate than a clinometer for establishing level or zero percent slope and it can be re-calibrated. Most have a lens to adjust for eye correction and a 2-5 power magnification to make it easier to see the target.
The age-old magnetic compass is small, lightweight, and a trusted companion. It can be used to verify the readings on electronic compasses and many have a mirror that can be used to signal help in an emergency. It will never have a dead battery.
Commonly called a logger’s tape, 75-foot steel retractable tapes clip onto a belt loop. Add a long spike to the end and it can be used by one person.
For larger area or lineal measurements that don’t have to be exact, the belt-mounted string machine is the perfect tool. Tie the string to the starting point, reset to zero, and walk. Considering its simplicity, it is surprisingly accurate and great for one-person measuring.
A 25-foot tape measure is necessary for smaller, more accurate measurements; the tape should be a minimum of ¾” wide.
A belt-mounted hatchet is great for pounding in lath, stakes, or hubs; cutting limbs out of the way; or as a last line of defense. In heavy brush, a machete is handy.
Team members should have radio communication so they can coordinate and work together more effectively and safely. The little consumer-grade GMRS or FRS radios have a good range and good call quality.
Spare batteries should be packed for whatever device uses batteries. Field time is valuable. Don’t have it cut short because of dead batteries.
Topographic (topo) maps illustrate features such as contour lines, mountains, roads, trails, streams, lakes, towns, buildings, power lines, forested areas, open areas, and other features. These features are mapped using aerial photographic interpretation called photogrammetry. In the United States, most of this mapping was done by the U.S. Geological Survey. The entire country is divided into named rectangles and the maps are referred to as USGS quadrangles, or quad maps.
The global positioning system (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of 24 satellites placed into orbit around the world by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS works in any weather conditions, anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. There are no subscription fees or setup charges to use the GPS signal. A GPS receiver or unit is used to receive the information from satellite signals and uses triangulation to calculate the user’s exact location. Essentially, the GPS unit compares the time a signal was transmitted by a satellite with the time it was received. The time difference tells the GPS receiver how far away the satellite is. Adding measurements from a few more satellites enables the receiver to determine the person's position and display it on the unit’s electronic map or as a coordinate such as longitude-latitude. A GPS unit must be locked on to the signal of at least three satellites to calculate a 2D position (latitude and longitude) and track movement. With four or more satellites in view, the receiver can determine the user’s 3D position (latitude, longitude, and altitude). Once the user’s position has been determined, the GPS unit can calculate other information, such as speed, bearing, track, trip distance, distance to destination, altitude, sunrise and sunset time, and more.
Atmospheric and topographic conditions can affect the quality and strength of GPS signals and cause distortions in the data. The location of satellites at given times of the day provide for better or worse signal strength, which affects the accuracy of triangulation. This is typically only important when trying to locate a feature within a foot or two of where it is actually located. Cloudy, rainy, or snowy conditions can have an effect on signal strength and of course lead to moisture build-up in the electronics. GPS signals can be distorted by bouncing off buildings and rock cliffs. When working in areas with tall hard surfaces or in a deep canyon, it may be necessary to use higher quality GPS units that can filter distorted data or switch to the use of a map and compass in these areas. Another technique is to capture a good GPS position from a nearby high point and then measure a bearing and distance from that GPS position. Dense forest canopy can also have a significant effect on GPS signal strength. This can be overcome by using higher quality GPS units or using a combination of GPS, map, compass, and laser range finder. GPS units are usually more accurate after they have acquired GPS data for at least 15 minutes. A good accuracy test for a GPS unit is to see how accurately it is locating a known point such as a road intersection in an open area.
How are you going to use your photos? While it may be convenient for a GPS or other device to take photos, the quality of those photos may not be as good as with a digital camera. The photos may be fine for the trail file or condition assessments, but they may not have the desirable quality for presentations and formal documents.
A conceptual trail design alignment can be completed on a desktop computer and then loaded on the GPS unit. The loaded alignment can be used as a reference line while refining the trail design in the field.
Smartphones and some GPS units geotag digital photos, which can be used to document the location of trail alignments, features, and scenic views.
Video and voice recordings can also be geotagged to provide more detailed documentation of trail designs and conditions for construction and maintenance purposes. If a video is geotagged to an entire trail GPS line, a split view of a map and video can be used to illustrate a trail design or existing trail. This provides a virtual tour of a trail before it’s constructed.
If the line is of a file type that can be loaded into the GPS, navigate to any point on that line in the field using the GPS. It becomes more difficult when the line is only on the map and not loadable into the GPS. When there is dramatic relief with well-defined ridges, draws, peaks, etc., it is relatively easy to orient on the ground in relation to the map. This becomes more difficult in flatter terrain and in dense vegetation with limited visibility, but if the GPS is loaded with the same map data as the topo map, the contour lines shown on the GPS screen will be identical to the ones on the topo map making it quite easy to pinpoint the location.
Before going to the field, planners and designers need to be able to measure grades and apply basic engineering principles to measure or calculate lines, areas, and volumes.
In the field, team members need to know how to make three types of calculations: perimeter (P) or circumference, area (A), and volume (V). It is important to note that in making any of these calculations, all values must be expressed in the same units, i.e., feet times feet, not feet times inches.
P = 2(Length + Width) or 2(350’ + 250’) or 2(600’) or 1,200’ of barrier
Example 2. Adjacent to the training area is a circular tot lot and a barrier is needed around that also. The tot lot is 165’ in diameter; how many feet of barrier fence are needed?
P = 2π(radius) or π(diameter), so P = 3.1416(165’) or 518’ of barrier
= 780’ x 565’ = 440,700ft2
A = 440,700ft2/43,560ft2 per acre = 10.12 acres
= πr2x h
First, convert the diameter of 165’ to the radius by dividing it by 2. Then convert 8” to decimals of a foot by dividing 8” by 12.
V = 3.1416(165’/2)2 x (8/12)
V = 3.1416(82.5’)2 x (0.667’)
V = 3.1416(6806.25ft2) x (0.667’)
V = 21382.52ft2 x 0.667ft
V = 14262.14ft3
Convert cubic feet to cubic yards by dividing by 27
V = 14262.14/27
V = 528.23yd3
Note: This is a compacted-in-place volume or compacted cubic yards. The dirt or gravel that comes in the truck is loose cubic yards (cy). If 528 cy of dirt are ordered, there wouldn’t be enough, so a compaction factor is applied. Many material sources already calculate this, but if not, a compaction factor will generally range from 25 to 33%. For this example, the compaction factor is 25%. That means that 1 cy in the truck will yield 0.75 cy compacted on the ground, or that 1 in-place cy = 1.333 loose cy (1/0.75). Multiplying 528 cy in place by 1.333 will yield the loose cubic yards to be ordered.
V = 528 x 1.333 = 704cy loose
Example 5. Due to the soft soils and high volume of traffic anticipated on the trail from the parking lot to the training area, the trail needs to be hardened with 6” of crushed rock, which will be watered and rolled with a vibratory roller. The trail will be 480’ long and the finished tread will be 9’ wide with the rock sloped at 3:1 down to the subgrade. a) How wide does the subgrade need to be made before the rock is put on it? b) The rock is sold by the ton and 1 cy of this rock weighs 3,350 lbs. How many tons of rock are needed?
At a 3:1 slope, it takes 18” of run to gain 6” of rise, so Y = 18” or 1.5’.
X = 9’ + 1.5’ + 1.5’ = 12’ subgrade
Then, calculate the number of cubic yards needed. Looking at the end view of the trail prism, there are three geometric shapes: a triangle, a rectangle, and another triangle. These shapes can be combined so that there is one simple shape by taking the triangle on the right and putting it on top of the triangle on the left, making one rectangle.
The area of a rectangle is L x W
A = 10.5’ x 0.5’ = 5.25ft2
The volume equals the area of the base times the height, which in this case is the length of our trail.
V = 5.25ft2 x 480’ = 2,520ft3
Divide by 27 to convert cubic feet into cubic yards.
V = 2,520ft3/27 = 93.33cy
Again, this is a compacted in-place volume, which needs to be converted to loose cubic yards. Since this rock will be mechanically compacted, it can be assumed that the compaction factor will be 30%, so 1 cy in the truck will yield 0.7 cy on the ground. 1/0.7 = 1.429 compaction factor.
V = 93.33cy x 1.429 = 133cy loose
The rock is sold by the ton and 1 cy weighs 3,350 pounds
T = 133cy x 3350 lbs per cy = 445,550 lbs/2000 lbs per ton = 223 tons to order
Trigonometry is the study of triangles and the relationships between their angles and the length of their sides. With sines, cosines, secants, and tangents, it can get quite involved, but there are a few basic theorems and relationships that field technicians should know.
|In any triangle, the sum of the angles equals 180°;
Therefore, in an equilateral triangle all three angles are 60°. In a right isosceles triangle, the three angles are 90°, 45° and 45°.
|In any right triangle, the sum of the squares of the two sides equals the square of the hypotenuse;
This is also referred to as the "3-4-5 Rule", where a=3, b=4, c=5.
|In any right isosceles triangle, the angles are 45°, 45°, 90° and the relationship between the sides is 1x : 1x : x√2 where x√2 is the hypotenuse.|
|In any 30°, 60°, 90° triangle, the relationship between the sides is 1x : 2x : x√3 where 2 is the hypotenuse.|
|In any equilateral triangle, the angles are 60°, 60°, 60° and the relationship between the sides is 1 : 1 : 1.|
|If a vertical line is drawn from the top angle down to the base, the equilateral triangle is split into two equal 30°, 60°, 90° triangles.|
Example 6. One corner of the training area has some shade trees and this area needs to be blocked off with barriers and some picnic tables installed. The trees end about 75 feet from the corner of the training area; how long does the barrier need to be?
The barrier will create a triangle with two equal sides and a 90◦ angle, so this is a right isosceles triangle. From the information in the table above, it is known that the relationship between the sides is 1x:1x:x√2 where the √2 is the hypotenuse. The equal sides have been multiplied by 75 or 75x1, so the hypotenuse needs to be multiplied by 75 or 75x√2.
X = 75(√2)
X = 75 (1.4142)
X = 106’ of barrier
This can also be solved using the relationship of a2+b2 = c2.
752 + 752 = c2
5625 + 5625 = c2
11250 = c2
To find c, take the square root of c2 or √c2. In an equation, what is done on one side must also be done on the other side
√11250 = √c2
106 = c
Example 7. To reduce dust, bark chips will be spread over this area, and the supplier said that 1 cubic yard covers about 85 square feet. How many cubic yards of bark chips are needed?
The area of a triangle equals one-half of the base times the height:
= 1/2bh. The base equals 106’. By dropping a vertical down to the base, two equal isosceles right triangles are created with the relationship of 1x:1x:x√2 where
x√2 is the hypotenuse and
= 53’; therefore
= 1(53) or 53’.
The area of the original triangle then is:
A = 1/2bh
A = ½(106’)(53’)
A = 2,809 ft2
To find the number of cubic yards of bark needed, divide 2,809 ft2 by 85 ft2 covered per cy of bark.
cy = 2809/85
cy = 33 cy bark chips are needed
Example 8. The existing parking lot is a square shape and vehicles park in a jack-strawed fashion so there are safety concerns, plus the space doesn’t get fully utilized. The parking situation needs to be assessed for options. A pull-through design has better flow and space efficiency and these are generally designed with a parking angle of 30◦. Many of the visitors come for the weekend and have pickups and large toy haulers, so the parking lot needs to accommodate a vehicle that is 65’ long. Room is needed for the loading ramp to come down, 8’, and to unload without getting into the travel lane, another 8’, so the total length of each parking stall needs to be a minimum of 81 feet. A few feet are added for a margin of safety, so 85’ is used for the stall length. If a 14-foot travel lane for ingress and egress is desired, how wide would the parking lot need to be?
To find the width of the parking lot
W, the height of the triangle
must be found, then the two 14’ travel lanes can be added. Angle a is 30° and there are 180° in every triangle, so angle b must be 60◦. Therefore, there is a 30°/60°/90° triangle and the relationship between the sides is 1x:2x:x√3 where 2x
is the hypotenuse.
If 2x = 85’, then 1x = 42.5’, so X = 42.5’.
H = x√3 = 42.5√3 = 42.5(1.732) = 73.6’
To find W, add in the width of the ingress and egress lanes.
W = H + 14’ + 14’ = 73.6’ + 14’ + 14’ = 101.6’ of parking width needed
Example 9. An existing trail is being assessed and the work necessary to make the trail more sustainable is being staked out. In one place, the trail dips into a shallow ravine to cross a small creek. The ravine gets muddy in the spring and riders heavily braid the trail trying to get around the mud hole. The decision has been made to install a culvert and raise the trail grade by placing a rocky fill across the ravine. How long does the culvert need to be?
Using a hand level and a makeshift leveling rod, it has been determined that 3ft 10in of fill will be needed where the culvert will be placed. The trail is 50” wide, but 1ft of fill widening is to be added when a fill height exceeds 18”. Since this will be a through fill, there will be 1 ft of fill widening on each side, so the total trail width over the culvert will be 74”. To convert that to feet, divide by 12.
74” ÷ 12 = 6.17’
To convert the fill height to feet, divide 10” by 12 and add 3’.
10” ÷ 12 = 0.833 + 3’ = 3.833’ of fill
With a fill slope of 1.5:1, there is 1.5ft of run for every 1ft of rise, so Y = 3.833’ x 1.5 = 5.75’
The length of the culvert then will be 5.75’ + 6.17’ + 5.75’ = 17.67’ = 18’ minimum
If rock headwalls are desired, then another foot of length could be added to each end for a total culvert length of 20’.
It depends on what project work you need to do in the field. Sure, there are software programs that do all of these calculations, but a) do you have that software in the field? and b) do you understand what that software is doing for you? If you are managing a project and the equipment is running and all of a sudden you need to make a change that will require more materials, will you have the skills to make quick decisions and quick calculations so the work doesn't have to shut down? If you have to make a design decision like the parking lot example, do you have the tools to assess the feasibility of that decision?
Here are some of the elements discussed in this chapter:
Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks There are times when trails must go through wet areas or soft soils, and there are times it is desirable to have them there to enhance the scenic quality, variety, and rider experience. There are times when no matter how good the soil is, it can’t withstand the vehicle volume of use or weight. There are also places, as in road and structure crossings, where the approaches need to be enhanced to ensure smooth transitions. All of these scenarios require some type of tread reinforcement.
Chapter 4 discussed the physical forces and the fact that for every force down, there is an equal and opposite force up. On a hard surface, the upward force is equal to and directly opposite the downward force. As the surface softens, the vertical upward force decreases and lateral upward forces increase resulting in soil displacement and berms. A goal for a durable trail is to minimize displacement, and one way to accomplish that is to increase the strength of the tread surface.
There are two ways to increase the strength of the tread: stabilization, where another material is mixed into the soil, and trail hardening, where another material is added on top of the soil. Before discussing these two methods, Section 1 explains geosynthetics, which are often used in both soil stabilization and trail hardening.
Geosynthetics are synthetic polymers that are woven or formed into a variety of shapes. These materials perform six major functions: reinforcement, separation, drainage, filtration, containment, and erosion control. The first four functions are most commonly used for trails and are explained below.
The most common geosynthetics shapes are: geotextiles, geogrids, geonets, geocells, grass pavers, and geocomposites.
Dry soils, wet soils, and saturated soils; what do those terms actually mean? Every soil has voids or gaps between the soil particles. In fine-grained soils, these voids are very small and in coarse-grained soils, the voids are larger. The degree of soil wetness is related to the degree these voids are filled with water. Up to a point, water bonds soil particles together and makes them more resistant to the forces of displacement and erosion. Most soils are weak when they are dry, strongest when at their optimum moisture content, and weak when they are saturated.
Soils can best be shaped and compacted in the range from damp to OMC, so this is the ideal time for construction and maintenance activities. From a management standpoint, this is also the best time for OHV use to occur.
Soils that are constantly or often in the wet or saturated condition should either be avoided, or will require the application of structures, soil stabilization, or trail hardening techniques.
There are five common types of soil stabilization materials: clay, lime, aggregate, mix, and chemical.
Rock mixtures like crushed aggregate are categorized by the size of the largest rock size and the mix of progressively smaller particle sizes. There are three main categories:
There are seven other commonly used materials for trail hardening: cobble reinforcement, geotextile fabric, grass pavers, geocell, pavers, slab rock armoring, and tire mats. There are also inventive materials or "others".
Cobble reinforcement is similar to stoning except it uses rock that is 6 to 10” or less in size. Cobbles work well because they have a large surface area for increased load-bearing and that surface area also reduces the tendency of wet soils to suck the rock down into oblivion. Because cobble rock is usually uniform-graded, the voids between the rocks allow water to run through them, thus providing load-bearing as well as drainage. This is why cobble rock is used in drains.
A key consideration in the design of any trail hardening, but especially rigid structures like pavers and slab rock, is the forces being applied to them. Vehicle size and weight are factors, but more important is the vehicle width. Vehicles with solid axles or locked axles have different rates of rotation between the inside wheel and the outside wheel. The wider the axle, the bigger the rotational difference. This results in the exertion of twisting forces that cause either the tire to spin and hop, or the tread surface to twist and move, or both. Structures that are poorly bedded and conﬁned can be displaced and destroyed by these forces. Acceleration will compound the forces, so where possible minimize grades or grade changes on hardening structures. Also, the larger the turning radius, the less rotational difference between the inner and outer tire, so larger radius turns will have less impact than small radius turns. This is especially important on climbing turns, which combine grade changes with the directional changes. Interlocking pavers or structures that are conﬁned with frames will help resist these forces.
Here are some of the elements discussed in this chapter:
A large part of success in engineering of a trail system is to know what to do in a particular situation. Certainly with a new trail location or the relocation of an existing trail, the first option is to avoid potential issues. However, there are a multitude of structures available that can help mitigate almost any circumstance.
Structures help meet two of the three elements for successful OHV trail systems: provide for the riders’ needs and design for sustainability. Many structures enhance the OHV experience by providing variety either visually or in tread surface character. Structures provide a more stable, durable trail tread, which increases rider safety and the fun factor. Increasing stability and durability is what designing for sustainability is all about: protecting resources while providing a quality recreation experience. OHV management is facilitated when riders want to and are able to stay on the trail.
Here are some key points to remember when selecting and designing structures:
An essential key for a durable trail is managing water. Structures help drain water off the trail, allow water to flow under the trail, help raise the trailbed above the ground water level, drain water across the trail, and drain it away from the trail; all of which help manage water.
There are several ways to help get water off the trail: rolling dips, outsloped sections or kinks, and waterbars.
Rolling dips are man-made grade reversals constructed on existing trails with long sustained grades or steep grades to reduce the size of the tread watershed. They are also used in new construction where there is no other opportunity to reverse grade to provide drainage. The key to good rolling dips is just that, keep them rolling.
Here are some general points about rolling dips:
When controlling water with rolling dips:
Rolling dips and grade considerations:
An outsloped section or knick is a short piece of trail that has been steeply outsloped at 8 to 10 percent or more to provide drainage. These are best used in grade sags or flat low areas that tend to puddle water. The difference between a knick and a rolling dip is that there is no sag and crest in a knick. Instead, a section of the trail is cut away in a “C” shape and the excavated material is removed from the site. A dip forces water off the trail while a knick allows the water to run off the trail. Knicks can be effective on flatter grades up to about 5 percent, but on anything steeper, too much outslope is needed to turn the water. In these situations, riders will tend to hug the uphill side of the trail, and water carried by tire ruts will soon deform and breach the structure. Rolling dips are a far better alternative.
Waterbars are shallow structures that are used to drain water off the surface of a trail or road. They can be made out of a combination of rubber belts, logs, rocks, treated timber, or dirt. They are usually installed at about a 30 degree angle so that water will hit the structure and be directed off the trail. As a drainage structure on a motorized trail, none of these are effective because they are too abrupt and they fail due to the tires rolling over the structure. Logs are slippery at an angle and dislodge; rocks become dislodged, and dirt gets displaced. Though widely used historically, they are now being replaced with rolling dips, which are far more effective.
A belted waterbar has a piece of conveyor belt sandwiched between two 2”x 6” treated boards. The belt sticks up out of the boards a minimum of 6” and the structure is buried in the trailbed so that only about 3” of the belt protrudes above the surface. The belted waterbar has long been thought to be an effective drainage structure option for wheeled trails, but that has not proven to be the case. The main reason for their failure has been misuse of the structure.
There are six main reasons why waterbars fail:
The fact is that the need for any waterbar is a red flag indicator of a bigger problem. Water is running down the trail due to excessively steep grades, excessively long grades, excessively large tread watersheds, or failure to recognize and seize other drainage opportunities. Rolling dips are a better option, but in most situations, the best long-term solution is trail relocation.
Bridges are used to span streams or other terrain that cannot be traversed on the ground like a deep, rocky ravine; and they can add to the aesthetic beauty of a trail and the quality of the recreation experience. There is a wide array of materials available for bridge building, including steel, treated timber, log stringer, fiberglass, and other composites. Many are prefabricated, which aids in transport and assembly. Choice of materials can depend on local availability, local preference, or conformance with a local or agency architectural theme. Fiberglass, though not as aesthetically pleasing as other materials, is lightweight and easier to transport and assemble at the bridge site. Its initial cost can be higher than other materials, but transport and assembly costs are much lower.
Things to think about for bridges:
Arches are used to allow water to flow under the trail. They are slightly elliptical and come in either an open or closed bottom configuration. Open bottom arches are most common in trail work. They have a flange on the bottom edge that allows them to be pinned in place with rebar. Arches are available in a variety of sizes and come in corrugated galvanized metal or corrugated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. Plastic is usually preferred due to its lighter weight and ease of transport and installation. Arches have a wide and low profile that gives them several advantages: a) the streambed or drainage bed is left in its natural condition; b) the flow of water is less restricted, yet the capacity to carry water is one-third more than a similar sized culvert; c) the wider mouth of the arch is less likely to plug up with debris; d) the width of the arch makes it easier to clean out; and e) the arch shape is stronger than a round shape.
Culverts are another structure that allows water to run under the trail. The most common culverts are corrugated metal pipe, often referred to as CMP, and corrugated plastic pipe, commonly referred to as CPP. The metal pipe is aluminum or galvanized steel. The plastic pipe is HDPE. Metal pipe comes in a variety of shapes: round, elliptical, box, pipe arch, and arch. Round corrugated aluminum is the most common metal culvert for trails since it is 70 percent lighter than steel and just as strong. Plastic pipe comes in round and arch shapes. The round pipe is available with a single wall, which is corrugated inside; or a dual wall, which has a smooth interior.
There are two types of corrugations: annular and spiral. Annular is easier to band together, but each corrugation can become a sediment trap. Spiral tends to clean itself out better since one corrugation leads to the next. Plastic culverts are usually preferred for trails due to their light weight and ease of transport. They are also easier to cut in the field. Most culverts come in 20-foot lengths and have available bands to connect sections together as well as elbows, flared inlets, drop inlets, downspouts, and other attachments.
Here are some key points on culverts:
A headwall is a structure that surrounds the inlet of a culvert or arch and has three functions: 1) to keep the trail fill from sloughing or eroding off and blocking the entrance of the culvert; 2) to help funnel the water into the culvert inlet; and 3) to dissipate the energy of the water and protect the toe of the trail fill from eroding. Headwalls are normally constructed of rock, but bags of premix concrete are also used.
A catch basin is often constructed as part of a culvert or arch installation, especially where the water needs to turn in order to enter the culvert. It usually consists of a headwall and an “L” shaped berm or wingwall either made of or lined with cobble rock. The water enters the catch basin, hits the back of the berm where its energy is dissipated, and then is allowed to turn and enter the culvert. Catch basins will fill up with debris and sediment and require routine inspection and maintenance.
A trash rack is installed in advance of the inlet of some culverts or arches to collect sticks, logs, and debris to prevent them from blocking the inlet. They are usually widely spaced metal screens or vertical metal bars. Sometimes, they are placed directly over the inlet, but this defeats the purpose as debris can plug up the culvert inlet. By preceding the inlet, the debris gets collected, but water can still flow through or around the debris to get to the culvert inlet. As with many structures, the key to their effectiveness is regular inspection and maintenance.
Sometimes, it is desirable or necessary to cross broad wet areas. Boardwalks, corduroy, side ditches, puncheons, and turnpikes can all be used to elevate the tread above the water.
A boardwalk is essentially a trail on stilts that keeps the trail above the water level and out of sensitive riparian vegetation. Though expensive to construct, boardwalks allow access through sensitive environments, provide interpretive opportunities, are extremely aesthetic, and provide a unique riding opportunity that adds to the quality of the trail experience. Riders will remember the boardwalk and talk about it around the campfire.
Corduroy is an old technique of placing logs perpendicular to the wet area so that water runs through the voids of the logs and the vehicle tires run on top of the logs. This is generally not a long-term solution since the logs will eventually rot. There are two basic configurations for corduroy: logs placed on stringers and logs placed directly on the ground. Both can provide an uneven, slippery surface. When placed directly on the ground, some logs will sink or heave. In high water, they can float providing an unstable trailbed. Both methods can be rudimentary, but if properly installed and consistent with the management objective for the trail, they do work and will offer a unique riding experience and challenge that can add to the quality and excitement of the day’s outing.
A puncheon is basically a bridge that lies on the ground. It has stringers, deck, and rub rails that are laid on mud sills. It looks like boardwalk, but a boardwalk is on stilts which elevate it off the ground. Puncheons are typically used to cross wet, boggy, or seasonally wet areas. It can be used to bridge small creeks and protect sensitive resource areas like threatened or endangered plants or cultural sites. Materials are generally logs, sawed timber, treated timber, or a combination of those materials. Depending on how soft the ground is, the mud sills are placed directly on the ground or in shallow trenches that are dug down to firm ground, filled with rock or gravel, or filled with gravel on top of geotextile for increased bearing. The most common fault of puncheon installations is that they are too short and mudholes develop on each end. Be sure to terminate them on firm or higher ground. The approaches to structures like this are still subject to compaction and displacement, which creates low spots. To avoid this, the approaches should be hardened with rock or a geosynthetic with a rock cap. Puncheons can be slippery when wet, so grades need to be kept to less than 5 percent and approaches need to be on a tangent, not a curve. As with many other structures, puncheons enhance the riding experience while protecting resources.
Side ditches generally run parallel to the trail and help drain the trail tread by allowing ground water to seep into the ditch. The lower the groundwater level is, the drier the trail tread will be. When converting roads to trails, a good practice in wet areas is to use whatever excess width is available for a ditch. This helps drain the trail, enhance the trail experience by having a narrower trail width, and reduce the surface area of the trail. Like ditches along roads, side ditches need cross drains at regular intervals to reduce water volume and velocity and to help maintain the natural hydrology of the landscape.
Turnpikes have myriad variations, but the principle is always the same: use fill to raise the trail tread above the water table. The higher the tread is, the drier it will be. There are two configurations of turnpikes: ditched and ditchless. Ditched turnpike is most common and uses parallel side ditches to lower the water table. The excavation from those ditches is used as borrow to raise the elevation of the trail tread. However, there are times when sensitive resources prevent the excavation of a ditch or where the side ditches will interfere with the natural subsurface hydrologic flow of water by changing its direction. In these situations, a ditchless turnpike, called a causeway, can be used.
Ditched turnpike may require cross drains, culverts, and lead-off ditches to drain the side ditches. Over time, the ditches will slough in and collect debris, so regular inspection and maintenance is needed to retain the shape, depth, and function of the ditches.
Causeways can work well in seasonally wet areas with soils that drain well. They may not work well in perpetually wet areas with saturated soils since the structure may slowly sink into the ground. The use of a wider geotextile base or other geosynthetic materials may remedy this.
If a supply of mineral soil is available, a turnpike can be cheaper and easier to build than a puncheon, have less maintenance, and have a longer lifespan. Like many other structures, riding on turnpike is different and adds to the rider experience.
Water from springs, seeps, or ephemeral streams can saturate the trail tread and create mudholes. There are two ways to move the water across a trail: drains and fords.
Drains are structures that carry this water across the trail either on the surface or under the surface. Surface drains are a trench outsloped so the water runs across the trail and the trench is filled with cobble rock that provides weight bearing for the vehicles while allowing water to flow through the voids in the rock. These voids will eventually fill up with sediment and the water will then flow over the surface of the rocks. The most common subsurface drains are the French drain and curtain drain. The French drain is usually used to carry water under the trail from a point source of water like a seep or spring. It is a trench dug laterally across the trail, lined with geotextile, filled with clean drain rock, and then the geotextile is folded over the top. Usually, a perforated drain pipe is added as well to help carry the water. Unfortunately, the geotextile usually plugs up over time at the inlet causing the structure to fail. Also, if they are not installed deep enough or if the cover material is not maintained, displacement will expose the geotextile and the integrity of the structure will begin to fail. For these reasons, a culvert or an armored surface drain may be a better alternative.
Curtain drains are installed longitudinally above the trail or along the inside shoulder of the trail. They intercept a sheet flow of subsurface water to prevent it from saturating trail tread or from pumping up through the trail tread with repeated traffic. Depending on the depth of the subsurface water layer, these trenches can be considerably deeper than those of a French drain. They’re usually lined with geotextile on the sides and bottom and filled with clean gravel or drain rock. They may or may not have perforated pipe in the bottom. Since they typically intercept a linear water source rather than a point water source, they can be 100feet or more in length. For lengths greater than 50feet, the water that is collected needs to be drained across the trail at regular intervals. The cross-drains can be surface drains at a grade reversal or rolling dip, or a subsurface drains like culverts, or French drains.
Prefabricated geocomposite sheets or strip drains are also available that function just like curtain and French drains only they’re a whole lot easier to install, less expensive, and easier to replace if necessary. They are a piece of dimpled plastic encased in a geotextile fabric and they are available in rolls of various widths and lengths. The trench for these is much smaller and is backfilled with correspondingly smaller volume of sand rather than rock. These can be an alternative to the traditional trench drains that may be worth considering. Note: If too close to the surface, they can collapse under the weight of vehicles.
As with any structure, these drains need regular inspection and maintenance. French drains especially can clog with sediment and debris at their input point.
A ford is an on-grade, wet-tire crossing that can offer an alternative to the expense of a bridge or the risk of a culvert. They aren’t appropriate in some settings and their use is not allowed everywhere. The biggest issue with a ford is the potential for sediment delivery from vehicle tires directly into the stream. From a rider standpoint, fords can offer fun, challenge, and a unique riding experience. There are advantages of fords over culverts: fords don’t have to be cleaned out, they can tolerate wide fluctuations in flow, and there is generally less risk of a major structure failure or washout.
Things to consider with fords:
There are three ways to carry water away from the trail and redirect the flow of water to a more desirable location: lead-off ditches, sumps, and sediment basins.
Lead-off ditches are commonly used to drain grade reversals, rolling dips, and outsloped sections. If the material is suitable, push excavated material from the ditch onto the trail to be utilized as tread material, not away from the trail. As in all structures, regular inspection and maintenance is required to keep the structure functional.
On flat ground, it can be difficult to ditch the water away from the trail. One solution is to build a sump, which is essentially a hole in the ground that will collect any runoff water and allow any sediment to drop. A sump will eventually fill up with sediment and will need to be cleaned out in order for the sump to remain functional. The trail tread material that a sump captures can be re-used on the trail. Sumps can also be used to keep runoff water from flowing into an area where it shouldn’t go. When constructing a sump, it’s important to make it big enough to accommodate the expected runoff volume from an average storm. As in leadoff ditches and rolling dips, when digging a sump never waste the excavated material. Instead, use it as tread material or as material to build up the crest of the rolling dip. Sumps make a good source for borrow material.
Similar to sumps, sediment basins collect runoff water from the trail and allow it to drop its load of sediment before flowing out over the spillway. The difference between a sediment basin and a sump is that a sump generally has no outlet. Sediment basins are usually used in the vicinity of streams to reduce sedimentation and hinder the direct connectivity of water from the trail to the stream. The basin should be of sufficient size and depth to handle normal runoff. In general, a sediment basin has some form of hardening. The entrance can be lined with cobble rock to dissipate the water energy. The back and side edge are usually an earthen berm lined with cobble rock. Sometimes the berm is reinforced with geotextile under the rock. The outlet or spillway is slightly lower than the rest of the berm and it is usually rock lined as well. The bottoms of the basins can be lined with rock, but this can hinder the maintenance task of periodically removing the deposited sediment. Sediment basins will fill up with debris and sediment and require routine inspection and maintenance.
Structures that are used to cross major streams can be very expensive to build and maintain. A strategy that can reduce those costs and reduce potential environmental impacts is to utilize infrastructure that is already in place, such as road or other trail crossings. This may not be desirable from a purist trail perspective, but it is desirable from a practicality and management perspective. The infrastructure could be a simple ford, a large multi-plate culvert, or a bridge. In many cases, the existing infrastructure is already in the best crossing location and other options may be limited or not as suitable. If it is a road structure, access would require mixed use of the road but this could be for just the minimum distance required to cross the stream and get to a point where there is good trail egress with flat grades and adequate sight distance.
Several things need to be in place before utilizing existing structures:
The strategy of using existing infrastructure has been implemented very successfully on many projects. Short-term benefits include reduced environmental analysis, reduced engineering costs, and reduced project implementation costs. But the long-term benefits can reap bigger rewards in reduced maintenance and replacement costs. It may also foster cooperative efforts between motorized and non-motorized stakeholders.
Erosion control structures are commonly used and often required on construction sites to prevent stormwater runoff from entering streams, riparian areas, or other sensitive areas. Their function is to reduce the velocity of the water and to trap sediment. They are also used to aid in closure; stabilization; rehabilitation of old trails; and any time the expected runoff is expected to be higher than normal and tax existing drainage facilities, such as after a wildfire, during or after a logging operation, or during an unusually wet rainy season. Erosion control structures are usually temporary structures since they do not have long-term effectiveness or durability.
The most common types of erosion structures are check dams; energy dissipaters; silt fences; straw or coir wattles; and straw, hay, or other bales.
Check dams are used to close or rehabilitate heavily eroded trails or to stabilize the continuing erosion and growth of ravines. The word “dam” is a slight misnomer since most check dams allow water to percolate through them. The principle of the check dam is to reduce the velocity of the water so it will drop its load of sediment behind the dam. Eventually, the dam will fill up with sediment, which will help stabilize the floor and sides of the ravine or trench. The dams should be installed at regular intervals down the full length of the ravine or trench. Though check dams can be difficult to install, they are highly effective. Materials are usually cobble rock, logs, and treated timber, though steel guardrail has also been used. While curbing erosion from above, the dams also act as barriers to deter riding from below.
An energy dissipater is any structure that slows, redirects, or interferes with the flow of water. Water velocity is what erodes the soil, so the amount of sediment being carried by the water is directly proportional to the velocity of the water. The most common dissipater material is cobble-size rock or larger, but logs, steel, woody debris, or other materials can be used as well.
A dissipater should be considered at the outlet of any corrugated culvert installed on a grade exceeding 10 percent and on any smooth-walled culvert exceeding 5 percent. An energy dissipater should be considered at trail drainage points that have the potential to drain a high volume of water, especially if that drainage point is on a fill or a steep slope. Armoring the slope with rock reduces the velocity of the water and protects the slope from erosion.
Silt fence is a water-permeable geotextile fabric held upright and anchored to the ground by regularly spaced stakes. The fabric allows water to slowly seep through it, but it “filters out the sediment carried by the water. One advantage to using a silt fence is that it is readily available at most large home supply stores or farm and ranch stores. It can quickly become unsightly and should be removed after it is no longer needed.
Straw or coir wattles are commonly seen in the ditch lines along most road construction projects. They are a net bag filled with straw or coconut fibers so they look like small logs. They come in a variety of diameters and lengths and are usually staked in a herringbone pattern at regular intervals in a drainage way. When used in trail or slope rehabilitation, they are placed on the contour at regular intervals down the slope. The steeper the slope, the shorter the interval. Wattles break up the slope into smaller watersheds, which reduce water volume and velocity. The wattles trap sediment, but allow water to filter through slowly.
Bales have the advantages of availability, easy installation, and portability. Bales placed at regular intervals down a slope prevent water from gaining too much volume and velocity. This protects the seeding, mulching, and other erosion control efforts. In addition to straw bales, cedar shaving bales are also available. Cedar bales are heavier than straw, but they last longer and do not need to be certified as weed-free. Bales can also be used as a visual and physical barrier.
There are two types of retaining structures: gabions and retaining walls.
A gabion is a rectangular wire basket that is filled with rock. Once filled, a wire lid is secured in place. Gabions are support structures that are commonly used for bridge abutments, retaining walls, and stream bank protection. The top of the gabion should not be used for the trail tread since the wire mesh will eventually break and puncture tires.
Retaining walls hold material in place and include bin walls and crib walls. Bin walls are closed wall structures that are back filled to create a gravity fed retaining wall. Crib walls are created by stacking members (timber, steel, etc.) which creates a void that can be filled by rock or soil. Materials typically used for retaining walls include log, stone, treated timber, geocell, encapsulated geotextile (grass pavers which can be filled with dirt and stone to create a wall), interlocking concrete blocks, and steel guardrail sections. Often, the inside of the structure is lined with geotextile, which increases strength and helps contain fill material. Retaining wall kits are also available that provide durability, portability, and ease of assembly.
Common uses for retaining walls include the following:
Managing entrances and using tank traps barriers, fences, gates, and cattle guards all help control and direct the riders’ direction.
Effective entrance management controls use and sets expectations by answering questions for the rider:
Other information that is often provided at a trail entrance is a "Two-Way Trail" warning sign or "One-Way" or "Exit Only" regulatory signs when appropriate.
A tank trap is a structure commonly used as entrance management to close or restrict motorized access to roads or trails. It is constructed by digging a hole and using the excavated material to build up a berm in front of the hole. Often called “Kelly humps,” the combination of the hole and berm can create a formidable structure that can be 12 to 15 feet deep. There has been much debate on the use of tank traps. On the one hand, they do provide a visual barrier to indicate that the road or trail is closed. On the other hand, for OHV riders looking for challenge, a tank trap can look inviting and attract unwanted use. Just a mound of dirt does not effectively communicate a closure. Unintentional use on poorly located or poorly signed tank traps can result in severe injuries or death. Tank traps can be especially hazardous if the road or trail is closed in the summer to motorized use, but open in the winter to over-snow use. In poor light or blinding snow, a snowmobiler can unknowingly ride into a tank trap.
Barriers are another management tool used to control and direct where the riders can or can’t go. Riders’ eyes are constantly scanning for the open route and the best line through that route. It does not take much of a barrier to catch the riders’ eyes and deter use. As such, a low, unobtrusive barrier can be just as effective as a large visually obtrusive barrier. A variety of materials can be used for barriers, including dirt, vegetation, logs, wooden rails or poles, rocks, steel, tires, hay bales, or treated timber. The choice of materials usually depends on local availability, price, architectural theme, or factors such as the risk of vandalism. The material selected can either send a strong visual message or a subtle one. Once a material is selected, it should be used throughout the project so that a consistent message is sent to the riders.
When used for closure or rehabilitation, the most effective installations include a sign behind the barrier saying “Area Closed” or “Trail Closed.”
Like barriers, fences are used to control and direct the trail use. Materials used to construct fences are often metal, chain link, barbed wire, plain wire, treated timber, rail, split-rail, and log. Material selection is often dictated by local supply, price, or architectural theme. Once a material is selected, it should be used throughout the project so that a consistent message is sent to the riders. As with barriers, fences can add to (or distract from) the aesthetics of an area. They can provide a subtle guide or a strong constraint. Fencelines should also be shown on the trail map to aid in orientation and rider awareness.
One issue that often occurs is a trail paralleling a barbed wire fence. Many factors need to be considered when siting a trail parallel to this type of fence, including speed, traffic volume, tread width, and smoothness of the tread surface. Consider also the consequences of a rider losing control. If the tread is narrower and the surface is loose rock, the risk goes up and that should be reflected in the difficulty level assigned to the trail.
There has been much discussion about the effectiveness of gates. They can foster ill will because those with a key can go in, but others are restricted, so they are prone to vandalism. Gate effectiveness uses three of the 4Es. A gate is an engineering structure, but it needs to be supported by education and maybe some enforcement. Most people will respect a closure if they understand the reason behind it. Put up a sign explaining the closure and back that up with information on the trailhead kiosk, the map, website, and other media. Time and effort spent on education will be rewarded with compliance, user satisfaction, and reduced risk of vandalism.
Chains and braided cables are sometimes used as an inexpensive alternative to a gate. DO NOT DO THIS. Gates are visible structures and most have signs or reflective markers on them to increase their visibility, but cables and chains hang low, are usually very thin, often poorly marked, and can be extremely hard to see in a storm or low light. They can be death traps, especially if the trail is also used in the winter by over-snow vehicles. Manage risk. Install the proper structures that will increase public safety and reduce liability.
Things to think about with gates:
Cattle guards are often installed for livestock management. There are two basic configurations: arched and on-grade. Arches can be a good choice in rocky terrain or where resources preclude excavation. Having a dogleg in the trail alignment on each side of the cattle guard will control the speed of approach. The dogleg allows adequate sight distance but not enough distance to gain speed. On-grade structures can be easier to traverse, but they may require more frequent clean-out. A steel deck is far more durable than treated timber and a much better option.
All cattle guard installations should have a bypass gate to allow passage of equestrians, stock, pedestrians, or maintenance equipment. They can be very slippery when wet or icy. For rider safety and risk management, cattle guards should be installed on tangents, never on a curve, on the flattest grade possible, and level from side to side. Angled wings provide a margin of safety and allow room for transporting over-width materials or game.
Cattle guards are commercially available, but many agencies make their own. There is more science in design and rail spacing than one might think. Improper design such as too deep or too shallow trenches, sharp edges, slippery materials, too great an angle, etc., can pose a risk to both the cattle and the riders. Use caution when attempting to design a cattle guard.
Here are some of the elements discussed in this chapter:
To develop an effective O&M program, amassing materials, supplies, tools, vehicles, and equipment is a must. For the field technicians, this is where the fun starts, and they would probably term this chapter “Toys in the Toy Box” since equipment is what puts the trail on the ground and keeps it there. For the program managers, equipment poses a multitude of questions with not-so-easy answers, including what needs to be bought and when?; how will it be paid for?; where will it be stored and how will it be moved around?; and who will operate, maintain, and repair it?
Here are some thoughts regarding heavy equipment:
There are five main performance categories for heavy equipment: loaders, haulers, pushers, diggers, and other. Some equipment like dozers are purpose-built to perform as pushers, while others, like excavators and skid steers, have the ability to perform well as loaders, haulers, and diggers.
Tip: Equipment is useless if it doesn’t work or breaks down when you need it
Keep all equipment clean and serviceable, do daily maintenance and inspection, and perform all scheduled preventive maintenance
Dozers come in all shapes and sizes, but trail work usually requires only two sizes of dozers. Trail dozers have a track width of less than 50” and full-sized dozers are everything over 50” wide. Mechanized trail building is 10 times faster and cheaper than building by hand, and trail dozers are purpose-built for trail building. Though small in size, they are powerful and versatile with a six-way blade and draw bar with rippers. A variety of attachments are available, and they can grub a stump or move a large boulder. One advantage they have is that they can maneuver easily within the tighter confines of a trail corridor and minimize environmental impacts. The full sized dozers are great for anything which requires a larger foot print than can be accomplished by the trail dozer.
Excavators are diggers and loaders. They are extremely versatile pieces of equipment because they can construct tread, dig holes, dig ditches, pluck rocks or stumps out of the ground, and drag debris in or scatter debris out of the trail corridor. Most have a two-way blade, but some even have six-way blades for efficient grading and shaping. Having a thumb on the bucket increases the machine’s versatility.
With a large selection of excavators in the rental market, it is easy to match the best sized machine to the job; two to look for are mini-excavators and full-sized excavators. It’s hard to beat the versatility and finesse of a mini-excavator, which is less than 50” in track width. Many have adjustable-width tracks, a zero clearance cab, and a bucket with a thumb for handy plucking and placing.
Full-sized excavators are handy for constructing wider trails, closure and rehab, road-to-trail conversion, and facility construction. Often, the ideal equipment combination is a trail dozer and a mini-excavator working together.
Small size, fast walking speed, and a host of attachments give skid steers great versatility and makes them ideal companions with other equipment to accomplish a wide range of tasks. They can be pushers, diggers, loaders, and haulers. One advantage they have is that they are readily available at most rental stores. Mini-skid steers are commonly called walk behinds because there is no operator cab or seat post. These small machines are maneuverable and have many of the same attachments as their big brothers. The common name is a misnomer since most have a platform for the operator to stand on. They don’t have the force of a trail dozer, but they can work well for light excavation on flatter ground or finish work. Many have a six-way blade that helps them cut into shallow sidehills with soft soils. The auger attachment is handy for sign or barrier posts, but a slow walking speed does not make them efficient for widely scattered installations.
A tractor with a backhoe attachment can be very handy to load and haul material and to dig holes for barriers, fence posts, and sign posts. Thus they fall into the loader, hauler, and digger categories. Four wheel drive is recommended for most trail applications. Their fast walking speed gives them an advantage over mini-excavators or dozers with backhoe attachments when work is scattered over a wide area. Their three-point hitch and power take-off (PTO) allow for a wide range of power attachments from box blades to mowers.
Trick:Riders Usually Make the Best Operators
It can be easier to teach a rider how to be an operator than to teach a seasoned heavy equipment operator how to build a trail. Riders know the flow, can understand the vision, and can do a test ride to see and feel how well they did
Trap:Bigger equipment isn’t always better
With care and some extra work, trails can be constructed with equipment that is wider than the intended trail width, but trails cannot be maintained with wider equipment
Rock, aggregate, and good quality soil are a great resource for check dams, bridge abutments, drains, headwalls, energy dissipaters, or trail hardening. The issue is getting the material from the source to the site. One solution is a motorized toter or dumper. They come in all shapes and sizes and some are even self-loading. Because they need to fit on the trail and traverse rough terrain, they can have a slow walking speed and relatively low carrying capacity. If there is a lot of material to be moved for any distance, several dumpers may be needed.
Drags are pull-behind grooming tools that are used in both construction and maintenance. The best drag or combinations of drags is often found by trial and error on a specific site. The choice of implement depends on many factors such as the task at hand, soil type, trail width and alignment, use type, and required maintenance frequency. There are five main types: flexible drags, rigid drags, rock rakes, box blades, and other.
Flexible drags are pasture drags or tine harrows that are made from a draw bar and flexible steel web with steel tines on one side of the web. They can be flipped over when traversing rocky trail sections so the tines don’t unearth more rocks. With the tines down, they smooth the trail tread, remove small rocks, and collect woody debris. As the debris collects under the drag, the operator must sporadically stop, flip the drag over, and clean it out. They are great for dressing up a newly constructed or reconstructed trail. Flexible drags are effective in loose soils, but not effective in compacted soils since they have limited weight and cutting ability. Being flexible, they are also not effective in smoothing out a heavily moguled trail since material is removed from both the humps and the dips.
Flexible drags can be modified in many ways, including replacing the round draw bar with a piece of channel iron or square tubing for more weight and cutting action. A piece of channel iron can also be added to the rear for more rigidity, weight, and cutting and smoothing action.
A downside of flexible drags is that they are always on the ground. They work well for construction since everything needs to be groomed, but not for maintenance where one section of trail may need grooming, but not the next section.
Trick:Effective grooming: less is more
With any drag, making several light cutting passes is more effective than one heavy-cutting pass. This produces a better product with less wear on the equipment.
Rock rakes, the third type of drag, have a steel bar with spring steel curved tines bolted to them. Their name is misleading since the equipment is a rake, but not necessarily intended to only rake rocks off the trail. They have either electric motors or electric and hydraulic motors so that both the height and the angle of the comb are adjustable. Most have a u-joint coupler, a handlebar-mounted control box, and a safety breakaway wiring harness. The tines will wear out but they are replaceable. These are the most effective grooming tools on the market and will work in soft soils, compacted soils, and moguls. The small tines have a large psi so they have a powerful cutting action. The adjustable comb allows the operator to direct where the material goes.
With the comb off the ground, these are easy to back up, turn around, or avoid sections that don’t need grooming like rock gardens.
Most vendors make two models of rock rakes. One has a fixed comb where the comb rotates on a fixed axis, and the other has a sliding comb that not only rotates, but extends out from one side to the other. The advantage of the sliding comb model is that it can retrieve berms that have built up along the sides of the trail. Their downside is that they are heavier, have a higher center of gravity that may not work well on superelevated curves, and are considerably more expensive. A fixed comb model can also retrieve berms if there is enough clearing width to allow the tow vehicle and the groomer to straddle the berm. For most routine maintenance, the fixed comb groomer is both effective and a better value.
Box blades, the fourth type of drag, attach to the three-point hitch of a tractor and are very common in track and arena grooming. Most have a set of ripper teeth mounted inside the box and the teeth can be down or up. The box shapes and compacts the ripped-up material. They are available in a variety of widths down to 4 feet and can work in a variety of soils. Unless the tractor is equipped with a float mechanism, a box blade will not work well on undulating or moguled trails. Other potential pitfalls are that they tend to cut a trench; the operator cannot drift material from one side of the trail to the other; and it is difficult to reach out and bring in berms.
The last type of drag is for everything else from bed springs to discs to tires. There are a lot of implements commercially available, or the trail team members can get creative and fabricate their own. They shouldn’t be afraid to experiment until they find the implement or combination of implements that work the best for their situation.
Compaction equipment compresses soil or rock particles into a denser mass that increases durability and bearing strength. It is essential for the stability of large embankments. It’s an important element in the installation of structures such as for the packing material behind retaining walls, bedding culverts, and foundations for bridge abutments. The desired density is best achieved when material is placed and compacted in shallow layers. A compacted trail surface, whether native surface or crushed rock, will retain its shape far longer than a non-compacted tread because it resists the forces of displacement.
Tip:You cannot roll out pie crust in a bowl
Do not use compaction equipment on a trail that has a concave or convex shape. The entire tread surface must be uniform from side to side and the soil density must be uniform or only the high
Tip:Properly secure all equipment and materials
Never transport equipment that isn’t tied down, even for short distances. Insure that chains, binders, straps, and the tie down points meet state or provincial transportation standards
It takes hand, foot, and eye coordination to be an operator and intense concentration to make the machine do what the operator wants it to do. The operator’s focus is on safely and efficiently accomplishing those tasks, and not necessarily what is going on around him. It is dangerous to come within 20’ of a machine being operated unless directed to do so by the operator. Workers should not assume an operator has seen them approach or they will put themselves at risk.
A good trick is the Stick Method. When approaching equipment, even from the front, pick up a good-sized stick (a lath or roll of flagging will also work). If you are unable to get the attention of the operator, throw the stick over the cab or beside the cab at the eye height of the operator. An astute operator will immediately stop to figure out where that came from. Once you have the attention of the operator, wait for a signal that it is okay to approach. A good operator will lower the blade or the bucket to the ground, throttle down, and take his hands off the control levers.
No trail can be constructed by heavy equipment alone. Hand tools do the clearing, pruning, root cutting, and structure assembly and the final finesse work to make it all look pretty. Three common mistakes that are made when purchasing tools are: 1) not buying a good variety of tools like shovels, Pulaskis, and McLeods; 2) not buying enough of each tool; and 3) not buying or renting the right specialty tools (like drills, augers, and rock hammers) that make tough tasks easier. Each tool has a purpose and not having the right mix of tools can make a task much more difficult. Building a single-track trail with just shovels is a waste of time and energy. Tools have a tough life and often a short life as they get misplaced, broken, dulled, and misused.
The following paragraphs describe some of the most common hand tools for trails.
Pulaskis are one of the most essential trail tools because they can cut, chop, dig, and pry.
McLeods are the second most essential trail tools. They combine a hoe and a rake and are great for chopping, moving dirt around, raking out rocks, and shaping the tread, rolling dips, or lead-off ditches.
Chainsaws, with a variety of chain and bar configurations, are essential for cutting trees, logs, brush, and trimming posts, barriers, and other wooden structures.
Loppers are great for pruning small limbs and cutting roots out of the cut bank or trail tread.
A good quality folding saw makes cleaner and closer cuts than a chainsaw and is very handy for final touch-up pruning. Adjustable pole pruners are great for trimming long droopy limbs and they’re much safer and faster than using a ladder or standing on top of a vehicle.
Gas-powered brush cutters and hedge trimmers are great for removing or cutting back underbrush, both in construction and maintenance. Hedge trimmers come in either standard or pole units. They are good for keeping new growth from side vegetation from creeping into the trail in places where the tread is already established. Brush cutters come with a variety of implements from blades to nylon string. Choose the correct implement for the largest growth which needs to be cut.
In a deciduous forest, leaves can be a nuisance. Leaf blowers can remove leaves from the work site or blow leaves back onto cut or fill slopes to provide a natural appearance and to protect them from exposure to the elements. Blowers are also handy for removing dirt from bridge decks and other structures.
Spade shovels are indispensable for digging holes, moving dirt, prying out rocks, and cutting roots.
Bow rakes or smaller landscape rakes smooth out the surface and remove small rocks and woody debris. They are great for final shaping and finish work.
It is always amazing how many rocks there are in the exact place a hole needs to be made. Rock bars and tamping bars help to break up or dislodge rocks. A tamping bar is pointed on one end and has a small flat plate on the other, so it can be used for digging and compacting.
Depending on soil type and time of year, post hole diggers and power augers can be great for digging holes for sign posts and barriers.
Portable air compressors are essential because there is always a need for compressed air. Tires go flat, filters need to be cleaned, dirt needs to be blown off parts or personnel, air tools can be more powerful than hand tools, and the list goes on. An industrial-grade air compressor is an essential component in the shop, shop truck, or field staging area. Some heavier equipment offers a compressor as an accessory and this is usually a worthwhile option to consider. Having the ability to use pneumatic drills, rock splitters, and compactors can save a lot of manual labor and is more efficient.
Portable generators are another essential tool because there is always a need to power lights, tools, battery charging stations, etc.
Sometimes, just the tip of a rock needs to be moved out of the way, not the whole rock. And sometimes it seems that rocks are anchored to the other side of the world. In those situations, having a pneumatic, gas, or electric rock hammer or drill is both safer and faster than ordinary hand tools.
Many of the wooden structures require the drilling of holes for bolts or drift pins. This can be a tough task that requires electric- or gasoline-powered drills and long drill bits.
Equipment and tools break. Being able to weld on site with a portable welder can save on downtime and expensive trips to a repair shop.
Equipment will also get stuck or find its way into a precarious position. Having a winch suddenly becomes an essential item in these situations. When ordering equipment, it is usually wise to purchase a winch if it’s an available option. Chainsaw winches, come-alongs, and OHV winches can be invaluable in moving rocks or logs and in placing bridge stringers, puncheon, and other structures.
Gas-powered hedge trimmers and brush cutters are great for removing or cutting back underbrush both in construction and maintenance. Hedge trimmers come in either standard or pole units. They are good for keeping new growth from side vegetation from creeping into the trail in places where the tread is already established. Brush cutters come with a variety of implements from blades to nylon string. Choose the correct implement (or the next size up) for the largest growth that needs to be cut.
Trick:Want to be ready for just about anything?
When reviewing a project site, consider carrying:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)PPE includes gloves, hardhats, chaps, hearing protection, eye protection, boots (or steel toe boots), long-sleeved shirts, long pants, etc. For equipment, PPE includes the seat belt. Whatever personal protective gear is needed, HAVE IT and WEAR IT. In some situations, riding gear can double as PPE.
Here are some of the elements discussed in this chapter:
The foundation of this book is the effective application of the 4Es; and the basic premise of the second “E,” Education, is that educated riders are responsible riders. Most agencies don’t have the personnel or funding to have staff in the field when the riders are recreating, but it is essential that management communicate with the riders and that the riders understand that communication. If management team members don’t effectively tell the public where they should be riding and how they should be acting, the team can’t be disappointed when riders go where the team doesn’t want them to go and do what the team doesn’t want them to do.
Communication can occur through non-personal media, including signing, trail maps, and websites and social media. It can also occur through personal contact, including through agency staff, contracted site hosts, or volunteer trail ambassador programs.
Signing gives the rider key information about the site, rules, orientation, education, and safety. By clearly conveying these messages, management can better control and direct the use, maximize rider safety, and minimize agency risk. But signing does more than just convey a message, it conveys an image and an expectation: this site is professionally managed. Visitors will respond to that image with increased respect and compliance.
Here are some key points on signing:
A sign plan can be very detailed and provide site-specific data on sign location, sign type, and message. Or it can be a programmatic sign plan which identifies typical signing scenarios for a project area and provides guidance on what signs would be appropriate in each of those scenarios. This provides consistency by ensuring that similar scenarios have similar signing. In each scenario, the plan discusses the signs that are needed and their function. It provides guidance on the sign shapes, sizes, colors, messages, letter sizes, reflectivity, materials, decal placement protocols, and sign installation protocols.
Other benefits of a sign plan include:
Over time, management and personnel will change, and a sign plan will maintain continuity and consistency through these changes. There are eight key elements in effective signing (need, simplicity, clarity, quality, consistency, placement, monitoring, and maintenance) and having a plan helps address all of them.
Tip:More signs do not equal more effectiveness
This is perhaps the most critical and abused element. Most OHV trail signs are viewed from a moving vehicle, so signs need to be sized and placed where they are readily visible.
Trap:More signs do not equal less risk.
Keep signing simple and minimal. Warning signs especially should be used very judiciously. Tort claims have been lost because one “hazard” was signed, but another “hazard” wasn’t
When signing, it is important to use the right type of sign in the right situation.
Administrative signs generally identify who has jurisdiction of the site. Examples include Federal, State, Provincial, County, City, and Private property.
Recreation site signs identify the name of the site. Examples include trailhead, staging area , campground, and OHV park.
Visitor information signs relay rules, etiquette, information, education, and interpretation. Examples include: kiosks , map boards, and Required to Ride signs.
Travel management signs identify who can or can’t use the route or area and any restrictions on use. Examples include: trail users allowed on routes, trail users restricted from routes, and seasons or dates trails are open and closed.
Trail signs include: trail junction markers, reassurance markers, destination (guide) signs, points of interest signs, and information signs (Use It, but Don’t Abuse It; Stay on Trail or Stay Home; Please Stay on the Trail, the Future of This Trail Depends on You).
Warning signs warn of a potential hazard or unusual condition. They are diamond-shaped with reflective black on yellow or black on orange. Examples include: Intersection Ahead, Gate Ahead, Stop Ahead, and Yield Ahead.
Regulatory signs inform the users of traffic laws or regulations. Except for stop and yield signs, they are rectangular-shaped with reflective black on white. Examples include: Trail or Area Closed, Trail or Area Restricted, , , Stop, Yield, One Way, and Do Not Enter.
Cooperator signs recognize trail stewards, key volunteer groups, or other partners.
Program Area signs include open area boundary signs, OHV park boundary signs, and other boundary signs.
As per the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and EM7100-15, signs should conform to the following standard colors.
Red is used only as a background color for Stop signs, Do Not Enter, and Wrong Way signs. Red is used as a legend color for Yield signs, parking prohibition signs, and the circular outline and diagonal bar prohibitory symbol.
Black is used as the background color on horizontal arrow One Way signs. Black is used as a message color on white, yellow, and orange signs.
White is used as the background color for most regulatory signs, except Stop signs. White is used for the legend and border on brown, green, blue, black, and red signs.
Orange is used as a background color for construction and maintenance signs.
Yellow is used as a background color for most warning signs unless orange is specified.
Brown is used as a background color for guide, information, and recreation signs.
Green is used as a background color for state and federal highway guide signs, milepost markers, and as a legend color with white background for permissive parking regulation signs.
Blue is used as a background color for information signs and related motorist services on state and federal highways
As per the MUTCD and EM7100-15, signs for motorized trails should conform to the following standard shapes.
Letter and Symbol Sizes. For motorized trails, the minimum letter size is 2 inches using an ASA Series C font and the minimum symbol size is 12 inches. Note: Consider the intent of the sign, rider speed, and viewing distance when determining appropriate letter sizes. A 2-inch letter is difficult to read from a moving vehicle or from any distance, but a 3-inch letter is quite legible.
Sign Sizes. The minimum size for warning and regulatory signs is 12 x 12 inches. Smaller signs should not be used unless the rationale is documented in the project file.
The USDA Forest Service Sign and Poster Guidelines EM7100-15 is a recommended resource for roads and OHV trails. It contains a plethora of additional information on sign messages, abbreviations, number of lines per message, the use of arrows, letter size in relation to speed, sign substrates, etc.
There are several recommended sign guidance rules.
For safety, durability, and professional appearance, the following general sign guidelines are recommended:
All signs with decals, letters, or numbers can be covered with clear plastic tape that wraps over the top of the sign. This helps prevent snow shear; protects the sign and decals from UV decay; and protects the sign from damage by weather, wildlife, or vandalism. This protective sheeting can triple the life of the sign or marker.
At the time of final design or construction, a Sign List should be developed that lists all the signs and markers needed on a particular segment of trail. Once the signs are installed, GPS coordinates can be added so the Sign List and can serve as a complete sign inventory as well as a maintenance tool. This list aids in the correct assembly and installation of the signs.
Signs up to 18 x 18 inches should be attached to posts with 5/16 x1¼ inches hex head lag bolts with washers. Larger signs should be attached with 3/8 x 1½ inches hex head lag bolts with washers. For all signs that are near roads, trailheads, staging areas, campgrounds, or other areas with public access, consider vandal-resistant hardware. To avoid damage to the sign face and decals, the holes for these screws need to be pre-drilled and care should be taken not to over-tighten the bolts or screws.
For quality esthetics in most forest settings, it is preferred to have signs with brown backs since they blend with the landscape better and look more natural. This is an advantage of using brown polyplate as a sign substrate. In an urban or industrial setting like an OHV park or MX track, having brown backs may not be appropriate.
When selecting sign materials, there are several environmental factors to consider.
Wildlife. Porcupines eat wood signs, so avoid using wood if these animals are prevalent. Deer and elk will use signposts to rub the velvet off their antlers. A 4 x 4 inch wood post can be rubbed to a toothpick in a few years. Fiberglass or metal may be a better alternative.
Livestock. Cows will scratch themselves by rubbing on signs and can easily break a sign or deface it. Consider using thicker materials and be sure to cover the signs with clear overlaminate sheeting.
Ultraviolet light. The sun’s UV rays will fade colors, damage adhesives so decals peel and multi-layer signs delaminate, and bleach the resins out of fiberglass so it fades and rots. When possible, order materials that are UV stabilized. Cover all signs and markers with clear overlaminate tape.
Human exposure. Graffiti, bullet holes, or breakage can be a common problem in some locations. Having a clear overlaminate sheeting will aid in the removal of graffiti. Regular inspection and maintenance are needed to address other issues.
There are several common mistakes that all management teams make when considering what signing to use on their trails. The photos below highlight the mistakes and give suggested solutions.
There are also several good ideas for signing.
As in signing, trail maps provide information, orientation, education, and safety messages. Riders may read the map information around the campfire or on the way home, but when first arriving on site, riders will make a beeline to the map so they can plan their route and start riding. In this scenario, the primary function of the map is orientation. As such, there are three critical factors: 1) the information on the map must match the signing on the ground; 2) the base map data must be recent enough to agree with the database used in most GPS units; and 3) maps must be available by handout or in a map box.
If there isn’t staff, a host, or a volunteer available to hand out maps and education material, a map box is the next best thing. Think of that box as a way to personally hand a map to the customer.
Though maps can easily be loaded onto mobile electronic devices, the paper map will never become obsolete because it can wadded up and stuffed in a shirt or fanny pack; used when wet, muddy, or extremely dusty; and can survive a day of being bounced around on the trail.
A good, user-friendly trail map should have as many of the following elements as possible.
The phrase “Know Before You Go” has never been easier to achieve. Most riders get maps, directions, weather, and other information from websites before they leave to go riding. Certainly, the cyber information era can be a blessing to management if management chooses to use it effectively. A website can have rules and regulations, downloadable maps, fee information, equipment and licensing information, current conditions, a volunteer page, links to weather and fire conditions, etc. The list of possibilities is almost endless.
Trap:Never us the word “SAFE” as a descriptor of the trails, facilities, or experiences. It is a relative term, it cannot be guaranteed, and lawyers will use it against you in court
A good website will be simple and easy to navigate. The general public should be able to locate the information easily on the site with a few simple clicks. Long pages where the public needs to scroll several times in order the find additional information usually causes important information to be missed. A higher number of shorter pages with a good menu or menu page is better.
Many maps are now geo-coded. This means a map can be downloaded to a smartphone or similar device. Map apps with the ability to read these maps use the internal GPS of the smartphone to track the rider’s location on the downloaded map as the trails. The website should have both the maps and a list or link to possible apps which will work with the geo-coding on the map.
Social media is the number one way to reach younger people. Programs such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can get important messages to younger riders and get them out to your trails.
Any manager’s dream is to have the funding to have adequate staff who are conscientious, knowledgeable, professional, and customer service-oriented. However, as budgets tighten, that dream becomes less of a reality.
From the public’s perspective, having personable agency staff on site provides:
When there is inadequate agency staff, non-agency site hosts can help fill the gap and provide a valuable service. Site hosts must have the social skills to effectively handle a variety of situations and they must have a friendly customer-service attitude. Hosts must be trained and have dependable communication with management and law enforcement. Since hosts are more likely to be on-site when the riders are present, they can be especially beneficial on projects that include a change in rider ethics, rules, fees, and riding opportunities. Other advantages can include:
People prefer personal contacts over machines. Friendly customer service helps to provide for the riders’ needs.
Except for fee collection, a volunteer trail ambassador program can have all of the same benefits of a site host. Ambassadors need to be able to ride, but like a host, the most important prerequisite is possessing good social skills. To be effective, a personal encounter must have a positive outcome, and that is determined by the skill and attitude of the ambassador (or host). Ambassadors must be trained and should have a probationary period of supervised encounters to ensure quality and positive outcomes.
Here are some considerations for trail ambassador programs:
The Three Tools for Success: Almost every chapter has linked back to the Three Tools for Success: Provide for the Riders’ Needs, Design for Sustainability, and Develop an Effective O & M Program. This chapter is all about developing and implementing that third tool. Communication opens doors by fostering trust and understanding. It provides a crucial personal or non-personal link between management and the riders to transfer essential information and education. When a person’s actual recreation experience doesn’t match his expected experience, the result is frustration and emotion that gets termed and categorized as user conflict. Management can influence those expectations by effectively communicating with and educating the public, especially prior to their arrival at the trailhead.
Here are some of the elements discussed in this chapter:
This chapter covers general strategies and tools available to managers. Like the great trail continuum, management has its own sub-continuum: implement, evaluate, make changes, re-evaluate. It never stops. If it does stop, management could fail, the project could fail, and the riders could lose another place to ride.
The sub-continuum of implement, evaluate, make changes, and re-evaluate is called adaptive management. A trail is placed in a dynamic environment, and change of some type is inevitable. The need for trail changes should be anticipated in the planning process, and it is to the managers’ advantage to include adaptive management verbiage in the initial environmental document.
There are several adaptive management tools available, including, mitigations, restrictions, relocation, reconstruction, using existing infrastructure, entrance management and, when necessary, closure.
There are many closure options available to managers, each with a different focus and effect. Before any closure is implemented, ensure that there is sound justification, that there is an implementation and education plan utilizing the 4Es, and that the ramifications of the action are thoroughly examined. Riders will get displaced. Where will they go and what impacts will occur? Is there adequate personnel and funding for enforcement? Will the closure damage relationships with partners? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If a trail gets closed, there will be a reaction. Plan for it and be prepared to manage it.
All too often, OHV trails are closed because of potential conflicts with non-motorized use. This is a poor management choice since riders will need someplace to go and there are fewer areas open to OHV riding than non-motorized activities. Education can prevent conflicts. If separation is necessary, consider removing non-motorized activities from OHV trail systems.
Trap:Don’t use closure to manage user conflicts
A key point is, whenever possible, managers should not close something before opening something of equal or greater mileage, quality, seat time, etc. When riders realize that they can still get from Point A to Point B or have a new higher-quality opportunity, compliance with the closure will significantly increase.
Sticking up a sign or a barrier is not effective use of the 4Es. An effective closure should include a barrier, signing, and ripping and disguising of existing routes. Education on rationale for the closure should be posted on the map, kiosk, websites, and other media as appropriate.
Emergency Closure. Management can implement an emergency closure any time there is extraordinary risk to public safety or resource protection. This could be due to an active forest fire, a severe weather event, or protection in the aftermath of those events.
Tip:With any closure or restriction, as the strength of the justification or rationale increases, compliance with the restriction increases
Mitigation measures reduce the potential impact or the risk of impact. A seasonal closure is a mitigation measure to reduce the risk of impacts during a certain time period. Some resources like a marsh, riparian area, or subsurface cultural site need to be avoided temporarily, but don’t have to be avoided year-round. Mitigations can allow or restrict trail access while minimizing risk to a resource.
Seasonal Closure. A seasonal closure is a recurring closure that regulates vehicle access. The three main uses are: 1) wildlife related, including big game winter range, fawning or calving season, and nesting season; 2) soil related, including closures during spring break-up or fall freeze-up; and 3) vehicle related, including closures to wheeled vehicles to allow access for over-snow vehicles. Any time there is a change in vehicle access, the effective use of the 4Es, especially education (signing, mapping, etc.), becomes more essential to ensure successful implementation.
Avoidance. When a sensitive resource is encountered, sometimes the easiest option is just to avoid going there. This usually simplifies the environmental analysis and minimizes risk to the resource. If the resource can’t be avoided, management should first look for other ways to mitigate any potential impact. Closing the route should be the last possible option.
Monitoring. Sometimes monitoring can be used as a mitigation. A trail tread depth, for example, could just be monitored. When and if it gets down close to the depth of the resource, then trail hardening or structures could be implemented as additional mitigation.
Monitoring can be used to gain knowledge. Perhaps a sensitive or potentially sensitive bird decides to make a nest adjacent to an existing trail. Rather than implement avoidance, why did the bird choose to nest there and will the OHV trail negatively affect a bird which nested near its activity? These could be answered through monitoring if the manager and the resource specialist are comfortable with the risk.
One issue with monitoring is that there must be the budget, skilled personnel, and time for the personnel to perform the monitoring. When budgets get tight, monitoring is often the first thing to get put on hold. As personnel come and go, monitoring plans can sit on the shelf and fall through the cracks of implementation. In trail management and monitoring it is important that managers do what they say they are going to do in order to build trustful working relationships. That doesn’t stop at planning, it follows through the whole great trail continuum.
Interpretation. Sometimes, interpretation can be used as a mitigation measure. With interpretation comes potential risk to the site since people will be stopping and spending time there rather than riding through. But interpretation is education and that has value. The thought process is that some risk will be accepted here, and by educating the public, there will be reduced risk elsewhere. Sometimes people will give more respect to a high quality area that has interpretation than to an area where they don’t understand the value of the surroundings. Interpretation can be expensive, but it is a valuable tool and one that is not used often enough on OHV trail systems. Interpretation enhances the rider experience, extends the length of that experience, and can help protect the resource.
The public has a strong desire to learn about history and the natural environment. Including interpretation is one of those extra steps that adds the WOW factor and turns a good trail into a great trail.
Interpretation can also open the door for some creative partnership and funding opportunities.
Structures. Though structures are a design element, many structures are mitigations for issues brought up during the planning process. Bridges are a mitigation to help protect water quality. Barriers and fencing can be mitigations to help protect sensitive areas. Cattle guards help mitigate the range issue of gates being left open. Implementing structures like boardwalks and puncheons can allow access through or over sensitive areas while still protecting the resource. Trail hardening can be used to help protect subsurface resources. The use of those structures not only helps protect the resource, they can greatly enhance the quality of the riding experience. Structures help provide a win-win scenario.
Using restrictions is a form of adaptive management to protect both the resources and the riding experience. There are two forms of restrictions. Vehicle restrictions are restrictions regarding the actual machine. Equipment restrictions are restrictions on accessories or other equipment on the machines.
Vehicle Restrictions. Vehicles are most commonly restricted by their width or type. OHV trails which are open to vehicles 50 inches or less in width would allow OHMs, ATVs, and smaller ROVs on the trail. Trails can also be open to one or more designated machine types. Single-track trails are restricted to OHMs only. And a combination of type and width can be used. Some 4WD-only designated trails have width restrictions to preclude modified rigs with excessive width.
Vehicle widths are restricted to: a) maintain narrow clearing width to enhance the trail experience; b) increase rider safety by limiting the size of a vehicle that may be encountered; c) protect a trail prism that wasn’t built wide enough or may not have the durability to safely accommodate wider and heavier vehicles; and d) increase rider experience by providing more difficulty levels in the trail system.
It is important to note that even though state or provincial laws may allow certain vehicles, trail managers usually have the option to be more restrictive when necessary and justified to protect resources or public safety. These messages are conveyed through the 4Es using effective entrance management structures and communicated to the riders before they get to the trail.
Tip:Knobby tires can be like golf shoes, which provide traction without disturbing the ground
Relocation is a tool that can be used to avoid a sensitive resource or move a section of non-sustainable trail to a more suitable location and alignment. Too often, managers pour money into multiple bandages for a trail that cannot be fixed when it would be less expensive in the long term to relocate the trail. Relocation is a tool that can protect resources, enhance the rider experience, and increase rider safety.
Tip:Utilize as Many Tools as Possible
Relocation is one of the most important, yet under-used, tools to correct sustainability issues. Failure to use this tool can lead to over-use of another tool: closure
Reconstruction can be used two ways: 1) to put a trail back into the condition it was in when it was first constructed (essentially performing backlog maintenance) and 2) to upgrade the original condition by re-grading; reshaping; and adding or improving structures, signing, facilities, and segments of trail.
What is the lifespan of a trail? It depends on multiple factors like soil type, use level, type of use, climate, number and type of structures, etc. All trails require maintenance, but at some point, the trail may degrade to the point where routine maintenance will be inadequate to maintain the functionality of the trail. At that point, reconstruction, or heavy maintenance, is required.
The goal should be not to maximize the use of existing infrastructure, but to examine what is available and creatively incorporate those sections that fit with the goals for the trail system. The key is variety in any form: scenic, tread surface, speed, tread width, destinations, vegetative, topographic, and interpretive opportunities, commercial access, etc. Providing an imaginative mix of experiences is what creates a quality trail or trail system. Trails are all about fun.
Structures. Utilizing or sharing existing structures is a great way to reduce project costs as well as reduce the number of structures on inventory. Sometimes, it requires creative solutions to use existing structures, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Natural Surface Roads. As in closure, the use of roads can be seen as an expedient and low-cost way to provide trails. There can be many benefits, but there can also be many traps. Land managers have the option to use roads or not, and like existing structures, why not? The two main issues with roads is the extent to which they are used and the quality of the experiences they provide. If the road is being closed to mixed-use, consider using an existing road corridor and turning it into a trail rather than relying on the road as is.
It is important to remember that OHVs are not designed to be used on paved surfaces. When considering using roads as trails, only natural surface roads should be considered.
Use Natural Surface Roads as Trails. Roads are an existing infrastructure. Many state and -provincial laws as well as agency regulations allow OHV use on roads, especially low standard or minimum maintenance roads. A great trail provides for the riders’ needs. With roads, a key point to remember is that they can provide two types of experiences, transportation and recreation. The experience must match the riders’ desired experience for the trail or it won’t meet the riders’ needs.
Convert Natural Surface Roads to Trails. Increasingly, roads are being closed to reduce road densities and reduce road maintenance costs. Often, this can present an opportunity to convert roads into trails. This is a good tool especially when options for creating new trails may be limited. There are many pitfalls of roads, including long sustained grades, infrequent drainage, and large watersheds; but when properly done, many roads can be converted into high-quality trails with high-quality experiences.
Convert Rails to Trails. Railroad grades can be too fast, too straight, and too boring, but this book is about WOW. What makes a great trail great? Traveling over a 150-year-old wooden trestle and looking 500 feet down through the ties to the river below or entering a dark tunnel. That is WOW. If there is an opportunity to incorporate that, seize it.
Trails. As in roads, there can be benefits and traps. Using existing trails can have the same issues as using roads: the extent to which they are used and the quality of the experiences they provide. Most existing trails were not designed, so primary concerns are their sustainability and whether they go where the planner needs them to go. Many user-created trails go up the hill whereas sustainable trails go across the hill, and the biggest trap that a manager can fall into is to assume that user-created trails meet the users’ needs. Most do not.
Tip:Entrance Management = Risk Management
Every one of these items is an element of a great trail and of great trail management. Effective entrance management epitomizes the application of the 4Es; it helps ensure a quality recreation experience and reduces the managers’ risk.
Below is a list of the management tools that can help build a successful program.
Partnerships. Having broad-based support for the project or program is imperative. Just like the great trail continuum, the battle to have and keep OHV trails is never over. The stronger and broader the support base, the better it will survive attacks from critics over time. Time invested in strengthening and expanding partnerships is time well spent.
Donations. Having a broad base of partners can open the door for a wide variety of donated materials and supplies. Being in the position of asking for anything can be an awkward task, but vendors usually will not offer support without being asked. Managers who ask are usually surprised with the results. These donations not only help the program on the ground, but they serve as important sources for match contributions for grants.
Innovative Grants. Having partners helps secure grants, but having creative partnerships almost ensures grant success. Almost all resources benefit from having a well-managed, designated OHV trail system, so seek partners and grants from unlikely sources like the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Backcountry Horsemen.
Volunteer Program. Having a lot of volunteer labor is another key to securing grants, especially if the labor comes from multiple volunteer sources. The organizing, training, and scheduling of volunteers takes a lot of time and energy, but again it is time well spent. Volunteers aren’t free, but for building partners, grants, and a workforce, they are essential to any successful OHV program. Volunteer trail ambassadors can increase education, evaluation, peer pressure, and agency visibility. When it comes to maintenance, whatever work can be done by volunteers, should be done by volunteers. This will build support and ownership in the program. Volunteers are a key component in successfully implementing the 4Es. Like donations, volunteers usually don’t step forward on their own, they need to be asked.
Tip:Master the 3Ps of Success:
Politics Politics Politics
Internal Relations and Politics. Dealing with internal politics can be far more challenging than external politics because of the day-to-day contact and interaction with co-workers., However, that effort is more than worth it when it comes down to gaining time commitments from essential personnel like resource specialists, obtaining labor from fire or smokejumper crews, or securing the fair share of a tight budget.
Permitted Activities. Permitted activities could include speed and non-speed events, jamborees or rallies, charity fundraisers, and special training or education events. There are many benefits to having permitted activities: clubs and the public enjoy them, so having them increases the external political connections and relations; clubs often rely on events as primary fundraisers; activities can stimulate interest, support, and volunteerism; they bring public and media exposure to the trail system that can help market the system and increase awareness of successful OHV management; they can provide an economic benefit to the community; and they can strengthen external relations and political connections.
Tip:Change is inevitable
As the demographics of the customers change, the configuration of the trails and facilities may need to change
Integrated Resource Management (IRM). IRM involves the coordination and cooperation between an OHV program and the activities of other resource entities within the agency: fire, other recreation, silviculture, range, law enforcement, engineering, wildlife, botany, cultural resources, etc. It takes effort to develop those internal relations and to get involved in the planning and execution of all of these other resource activities. But the trail is also a resource and the OHV program has or should have parity with any other program. Because trails are easy to traverse, they often get used as boundary lines for other activities, but those lines can affect the integrity of the trail and the quality of the trail experience. While a buffer strip usually isn’t required, what is desirable is a mosaic that creates variety.
The fourth E of the 4Es, Evaluation, isn’t just determining the success of a barrier or the effectiveness of erosion control measures. It includes zooming out and looking at the bigger picture: how is the program doing? In talking about building relationships with partners, stakeholders, and grantors, these people want value, efficiency, customer satisfaction, and resource protection. What do they see? Managers should put on their objective hat, go out to the project area on a weekend day, and look at their own program. Does it look professionally and successfully managed? Are the map boxes full, toilets clean, litter picked up, signs and posters neat and legible, smiles on the riders’ faces, and tracks only where there should be tracks? No? Then the tasks of creating a successful OHV program and building internal and external relationships could be more difficult. Taking the time to zoom into the “on-the-ground” picture can help managers zoom out and better administer the big picture.
A Great Trail Requires Creating a Great OHV Program
Here are some scenarios that could be avoided or minimized with IRM:
And some benefits:
Know the Customer. The demographics of the customer will change over time and managers can’t provide for the riders’ needs if they don’t know who the riders are or where they are coming from. A short online survey or a registration box at the trailhead can give managers valuable information that can be used to better serve the customers and provide supportive data for grant requests and other reporting.
Tip:Utilize the 4Es:
Here are some of the elements discussed in this chapter: