Sunday, May 16, 2010

Community Trail projects in managed forests landscapes

A BC community or community group could enhance local amenities and tourist potential by developing trails in local managed forest landscapes. Permission is required from the Ministry of Forests before a trail can be built.

A group may be able to call on the assistance of a volunteer with some experience in locating forest roads and trails. If not, most groups can follow guidebooks on trail planning and building. A good starting point is: http://www.americantrails.org/

The first step is planning the trail. Collect maps and local knowledge and identify the starting point or trail head and the destination(s) of the proposed trail. There will be other key control points along the way, such as stream crossings, or a rock bluff or other feature that has to be circumvented.

A route between the control points can be projected on a topographic map. Gradient of trails is a key issue at this stage. Trails should be under 10% gradient to provide comfortable hiking. A trail can switchback on a slope to reduce gradient. Sometimes terrain forces steeper gradients. Care needs to be exercised because trails greater than 15% gradient will erode with foot traffic in some soil conditions.

A preliminary reconnaissance of the map projected route will reveal the feasibility of the route and result in some modification of the route corridor. This is a good time to approach the Ministry of Forests and the forest companies operating in the landscape to discuss the project. Try to reach some general agreement on the project and be willing to modify the route corridor.

Final location of the trail on the ground should be preceded by a very thorough reconnaissance of the whole route. Expect to modify the projected route as you envision placing the trail on the landscape. The objective is to locate a trail that can be built with minimum soil disturbance. This is best for the environment and the backs of the trail builders. Use benches and other micro features in the topography.

Although trails are narrow compared to roads, their location requires greater thought and planning. Roads usually have ditches and culverts. Trails usually do not have constructed provision for drainage other than slight out-sloping of the surface to shed water. Trails with a gradient can collect water that can act as a major erosive force in storm conditions. Trails that climb and particularly steep trails need to have dips or breaks in the gradient to direct this water off the trail. These dips or gradient breaks need to be envisioned in accord with the micro-topography as the trail is located.

Flagging of the final trail location should be followed with a survey of the location. Hand compass bearings and distance measurement between stations along the route should suffice. The survey is plotted on the map. A map, survey notes and flagged location should form the basis of the application to the Ministry of Forests for permission to build the trail.


The next blog will cover trail building

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