Developing Woodland Trails
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Developing Woodland Trails



Presentation on planning, design and layout of woodland trails.

Presentation on planning, design and layout of woodland trails.



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  • Speakers: for each slide, there are several notes for you in preparation for the talk. Feel free to use these ideas or not. We create these presentations for a consistent message in each class. Feel free to personalize the presentation as you are comfortable. Publications: 10 Ways to Protect Your Woodland Property (FR-313) Recreational Trails (NC) forest ry/pdf/WON/won29.pdf Trespass handout (UW) Wisconsin’s forestry best management practices for water quality forest roads (FF-6) Weblinks: - WI society of land surveys
  • Roads and trails provide many benefits to a landowner. They provide an opportunity for you, your family, and friends to enjoy the property by walking, skiing, driving, hunting, etc. Roads and trails also facilitate landowners being able to continuously monitor their property for management conditions and observe things like: the presence of forest insect/disease problems, wildlife movement and sign, wind disturbances, and signs of trespass or vandalism. Some landowners have inherited a network of roads or trails from prior management practices – i.e. farming practices, former homesteads, or from past timber management. Some landowners may utilize this existing network (possibly along with new additions) for their recreational needs. Other landowners might be in the position to begin developing a trail network from scratch.
  • If you already have a trail network, check to see that clearances are where you want them, the treadway is stable, and erosion problems are addressed. Work with the forester and logger you are working with to establish trails that work for the harvest and fit your goals for your property. Starting with a blank slate is the easiest way to get exactly what you want.
  • Building a quality trail isn’t as easy as pointing a large piece of equipment towards the destination. Just like many other things, to do it right you should plan ahead. This will probably end up saving you money, time, and maybe even some frustration down the road. A University of Minnesota-Extension publication entitled Recreational Trail Design and Construction, lists 7 steps to successfully building trails on your property. The first step is to decide what kinds of trails do you want . Do you want ATV trails, fire access lanes, hiking trails, or a combination of all the above? The next step is to inventory your property to see what features will both enhance and detract from the trail experience. Examples could include: existing roads and trails, wet areas, vistas, fragile areas, steep slopes, historic places. The third step is to design the trail – meaning develop the design specifications and a general route that connects points of interest. Next, you should scout the trail corridor by walking it with a compass and map. Along the way, you should be noting potential problems (i.e. steep slopes, water crossings, etc.) and marking the final route with flagging. Once you have a flagged route, you need to clear the trail corridor taking into consideration the clearance width and height corresponding to the intended use. The last two steps are optional depending upon the type of trail you desire. Constructing the trail tread entails removing stones, stumps, roots, leveling the trail’s surface, and adding any additional surface materials (i.e. stone, mulch, wood chips, etc). Finally, if you choose to, you can mark your trails with signs, blazes, or other markings.
  • Address these questions when beginning the planning process for your trails: Possible purposes – access, recreation, viewing nature, interpretive Kinds of trails – single use, multiple use, accessibility
  • Decide upon the purpose of your trail before beginning any work. The trails will most likely serve a number of purposes and they are often compatible. Nature Trail – Built for the enjoyment of nature, typically an easy walking trail Interpretive Trail – Built to highlight or teach others about specific features Access Trail – Built to provide access to a specific feature (i.e. a trail to a lake or campsite) Recreational Trail – Built for the enjoyment of a particular recreational activity (i.e. skiing trail)
  • Trails built for a single use are the easiest to design, build and maintain. When designing and building for multiple uses, you need to keep in mind the specific design characteristics for each or the trail will not be very useful. Your forest is going to change over the seasons, and you need to think how those changes are going to affect the trail, it’s uses, and it’s purpose. For example, views are going to be very different when the leaves are off and an incline may be easy to climb when it is dry buy almost impossible in mud or snow.
  • You need to have good knowledge of all the features and different aspects on your property to be able to plan out your trails to meet your needs. An inventory of all the features captured on a map is the best way to start the planning. Any map will do, but one that shows terrain features will make it easier to plan. 1. Topo maps will show terrain features and gross habitat types 2. Identify all the areas of interest on your property 3. Features you would like the trail to pass by or avoid, examples include: vistas, water bodies, meadows, bogs
  • An aerial photo with features and trails identified. Aerial photos are good for showing two dimensional features, but not as good at showing changes in the steepness of hills.
  • Now that you have an idea of where you would like trails to go, you need to think about all the details involved in putting in the trail. We will go through each of these in more detail in subsequent slides.
  • Deciding where the trails will go and how they will connect is the first step. You will want some loops and connectors so that you don’t have to drive backwards and can get to different trail segments quickly. The length of the trail depends on how fast you want to be able to go and the experience including views, difficulty, and going by features.
  • It is important to get the dimensions set for the activities you are planning. Here are some examples to help decide on these dimesions. Hiking: 4-10’ w, 8’ h, 2-6’ w tread ATV: 12’ w, 12’ h, 8’ w tread XC Skiing: 8-14’ w, 8-10’ h above snowline, 5-6’ trail width (Twice as wide on uphill climbs)
  • You may need to add or remove materials from your trail for it to work for the activities you are planning. Here are some thoughts on trail surfaces for different activities. Hiking: natural materials, gravel, mowed grass, or wood mulch/chips ATV: soil, crushed gravel or stone XC Skiing: natural materials (all large rocks and logs should be removed)
  • You need to design the turns in your trails to accommodate different users and their speeds. Bicycling: mountain biking 4-8’, touring bike depends upon speed XC Skiing: never at the bottom of a down hill, 50-100’ with signs on approach Snowmobiling: 50-100’ with 15’ runouts on outside of curve
  • The steepness of hills is defined by the percent increase from a flat service (or percent grade). Higher grades (90% is vertical) mean steeper slopes. You need to layout your trails on hills so that the uses you have identified can ascend at an appropriate speed. Hiking: 0-5% (Max of 15% for sustained stretches and 40% for short stretches of <40%
  • Adequate sighting distances help users enjoy the trail safely. Blind and sharp turns are a recipe for collisions. Horseback riding: Riders should be able to see motorized road crossings from 50-100’ Bicycling: 50-100’ using turns and bends to help reduce speeds XC Skiing: 50’ where trail approaches downhills or other hazards Snowmobiling: 50-100’ with double trail clearing prior to hazards
  • Proper water crossings protect the users, fragile environments, and water quality Horseback riding: Minimize crossings, horses can ford up to 24” deep water XC Skiing: Use 6-10’ w bridges Snowmobiling: Never route trails over frozen lakes or rivers, use 8-10’ w bridges
  • Now that the trail is mapped out, you need to scout its location to ensure you haven’t missed any problems such as steep slopes, water crossings, rock outcrops, etc.
  • Use the appropriate hand tools to remove vegetation Treat the stumps of only of those species that sprout Protecting the environment should be a central concern during all these activities
  • These two keys will create a sound and safe trail treadway.
  • Where there are erosion problems or the potential for erosion, you need to take steps to protect the treadway. Crushed stone or asphalt should be used when erosion potential is highest
  • Even if you do not have any waterbodies on your property, you will still need to address issues surrounding damage from water and especially runoff from storms.
  • There are simple things that can be done during the design and layout phase and to upgrade existing trails that will reduce the potential for erosion. Ways to Combat Erosion: Switchbacks, Sidehilling, waterbars, drainage dips, bog bridges, puncheon, drainage ditches, rock or log steps, using geotextile fabrics You may need to fix these after a storm.
  • Here is a drawing of one tool to be utilized on trails that cross wet areas.
  • Putting up trail markers will help you and others keep track of where they are on the trail and any upcoming hazards. Blazes - Be creative, come up with your own design. Place a blaze every 600 feet at minimum
  • A general rule of thumb in recreational management is to NOT BUILD SOMETHING THAT YOU CANNOT MAINTAIN!!! Routine maintenance on trails (i.e. twice yearly mowing and tree removal) will be a consideration. Special maintenance, such as that required following a major windstorm or rain event, should also be thought of before trail building begins. Working with others When considering developing recreational trails and roads for your property, consider checking with others to see if you might be able to work with them. Other people that might be interested include: A local trail or recreation club A local Boy or Girl Scout troop Your neighbors
  • Pick the right tool for the right job. Chain saw - Uses: for clearing trees, brush, and for cutting standing trees Brush mower - Uses: for clearing new trail, reducing woody competition on trails and in open areas Tractor-mounted brush mower/hog - Uses: similar to brush mower but handier for larger areas Hand tool - Uses: for light, finishing work

Developing Woodland Trails Developing Woodland Trails Presentation Transcript

  • Developing Woodland Trails John Exo UW-Extension
  • Learning Objectives
    • Know how to design and construct a trail that meets your needs
    • Know how to maintain your trails
  • Topics For Today
      • Planning
      • Design
      • Maintenance
  • Many Benefits of Trails
      • Expand recreational opportunities
      • Provide access for multiple management uses
    Did You Know? Approx. 42,000 miles of recreational trails in Wisconsin Source: Wisconsin Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan 2000-2005. WI-DNR. Photo by Matthew Davis
  • Ways of Developing Trails
      • Improve existing trails
      • Establish during forest management events
      • Build from scratch
    • 7 steps :
      • Determine the purpose
      • Inventory your property
      • Design the trail
      • Scout the trail corridor
      • Clear the trail
      • Construct the trail tread
      • Mark the trail
    Building trails on your property Photo by Matthew Davis Source: Recreational Trail Design and Construction. University of Minnesota-Extension.
  • Starting Out: Planning your Trail
    • What is its purpose?
    • What kind of trail do you want?
    • W here do you want it to go ?
    Kind of Trail Purpose of Trail Location of Trail
  • Your Trail’s Purpose
    • Nature Trail
    • Access Trail
    • Recreational Trail
    • These are not mutually exclusive
  • Single vs. Multiple Use Trails
    • Trails built for a single use.
    • Trails built for a combination uses:
    • Think about seasonal considerations.
      • Snowmobile
      • Hike-snowshoe
      • Horse-riding
      • Cross-country skiing
      • Firebreaks
      • ATV’s
      • Mountain biking
      • Wheelchair use
      • Bird-watching
  • Inventory your property
    • 1. Get a map of the topography
    • 2. Walk your entire property
    • 3. Mark key features on the map
    • Other useful tools: aerial photos, soil maps, forest management plan
  • Topographic photo
  • Designing your trail
    • Factors to consider:
      • Trail layout & length
      • Clearing width & height
      • Tread width
      • Trail surface
      • Turning radius
      • Percent grade
      • Sight distance & lines
      • Water crossings
    Photo by Matthew Davis Source: Recreational Trail Design and Construction. University of Minnesota-Extension.
  • Design Specifications: Layout and length
    • Layout options:
      • Linear trails
      • Loop trails
      • Connector and spur trails
    • Trail Length:
      • Desired experience and average speed
    Image from UM-Extension
    • Hiking
    • ATV
    • XC Skiing
    Design Specifications: Clearing width, height and tread width height width tread
  • Design Specifications:
    • Hiking
    • ATV
    • XC Skiing
    Photo by Matthew Davis Trail surface
    • Bicycling
    • XC skiing
    • Snowmobiling
    Image from UM-Extension Design Specifications: Turning radius
  • Slope steepness
    • Hiking
    • Horseback riding
    • Bicycling
    • XC Skiing
    Design Specifications:
  • Sighting distance
      • Horseback riding
      • Bicycling
      • XC Skiing
      • Snowmobiling
    Design specifications:
    • Horseback riding
    • XC Skiing
    • Snowmobiling
    Image from UM-Extension Design specifications: Water crossings
      • Cross perpendicular to streams
      • Check for permit requirements!
  • Scouting the trail route
    • Walk the route with a map
    • Identify potential problem areas
    • Examine the land’s drainage in the spring
    • Mark the route with bright flagging tape
  • Clearing the trail
    • Remove trees, brush, and rocks from the treadway
    • Treat stumps with herbicide?
    • Prune overhanging branches
    • Scatter debris to the side of the trail
  • The trail’s treadway
    • Ideal surface is natural soil free of stones, stumps, and protruding roots
    • Leveling soil surface is recommended
  • The trail’s treadway
    • Protect the treadway from erosion
    • -woodchips, mulch, grass seed, etc.
    • -crushed stone or asphalt
  • Dealing with water problems
    • Address existing erosion before moving soil.
    • Design trail to minimize contact with water bodies
  • Dealing with water problems
    • Factors affecting erosion:
    • Numerous ways to combat erosion
      • Grade
      • Soil type
      • Curve radii
      • Shading
      • Trail usage
      • Vegetation
      • Trail misuse
  • Puncheon Wet Area Treadway Cut in half
  • Marking your Trail
    • Blazes – paint, plastic, or metal markers.
    • Signs (if appropriate)– basic information, directions, distances, etc.
  • Trail Maintenance
    • Maintenance just as important as construction.
    • Annually or as needed.
    • Family activity or group project like scout troops
  • Popular Trail Maintenance Equipment
    • Chain saw
    • Brush mower
    • Tractor-mounted brush mower/hog
    • Hand tools
    Photos by Stihl, Country Home Products, John Deere, and Forestry Suppliers
  • Next Steps:
    • Evaluate existing trails for better functionality
    • Layout new trails to address multiple needs
  • Questions? [email_address] 608-355-3554