Building a Trail Town from Scratch - Page 4
Designing and Building New Trails
Creating a trail is more than just cutting down a few trees and clearing the brush, says Adam Reitz, who works with the Genesee Off Road Cyclist (GROC), a mountain-biking organization that has built many trail systems in Rochester.
“It's essential to understand sustainability when designing a trail,” says Reitz. “Poorly designed trails catch and collect water—the primary agent of erosion and most trail damage. A properly designed trail is not only more sustainable, but it generally works with the landscape in ways that are more visually appealing and more fun for various users.”
The International Mountain Bike Association has published materials that outline standards for sustainable trail design. These standards have been adopted by countless land managers and agencies when developing guidelines for best practices, and can be a great place to start if you’d like to learn more about trail design and building: http://www.imba.com/resources/trail-building.
Keep in mind that, on some lands such as established wilderness areas, power tools are not allowed. Some public lands may also have restrictions on structures such as bridges and walkways. Reitz says part of the planning process for your new trail should be working with local authorities to determine allowable materials and tools and other requirements. “Requirements for bridge and boardwalk design are often specified by land managers,” he says. “Their specifications conform to usability/accessibility and insurance.” For example, a town or county may establish a regulation that boardwalks need to be at least two feet wide—and, if more than 18 inches off the ground, require a handrail for safety reasons. Be sure to educate yourself on any and all local guidelines before you begin building.
Above all, Reitz advises to never take shortcuts: “Great trails take time to construct and they will last much longer.”