State Trail Administrators meet for 2005 training sessions
Annual meeting of staff of State Trails Programs
was held September 20-22, 2005 at Delaware's Bellevue State Park and
White Clay Creek State Park.
By Jonathan LeClere
Thanks to the excellent planning by Delaware State Parks, this year's State Trail Administrators meeting was a big success. There were many opportunities for classroom and hands-on learning. We had representation from many national and State agencies as well as a good showing from some National Advocacy groups.
The main topics of discussion were changes to the RTP program affected by new legislation, Sustainability, Accessibility, and Trail Assessment.
This year the participants spent more time out in the field than then in previous years. The first of the three-day training the group was greeted by Christopher Douwes of the Federal Highway Administration, Stuart Macdonald of American Trails, and our hosts, Susan Moerschel and David Bartoo of Delaware State Parks.
In the morning each person had a chance to introduce themselves and present any highlights or concerns about their local RTP program. There were 37 people from 27 States as well as 9 people representing National organizations.
Stuart Macdonald from American Trails and the National Trails Training Partnership invited everyone to the National Trails Symposium in Quad Cities, Iowa, and Illinois in March 2006. Scott Linnenburger from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) spoke about Trail Care Crews, IMBA Trail Solutions, and take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.
Rich Dolesh of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) discussed Trails-for-Health and Best Management Practices Workshops and Jeff Ciabotti from the Rails-to-Trails (RTC) Conservancy spoke about their goal to establish more partnerships with the State administrators and other nonprofits. RTC has some big goals for the next 5 years. They hope to help develop a regional, statewide, and national trails network, and hope that by the year 2020 everyone in the nation will live 3 miles or less to a trail system. Their biggest overall goal is connectivity.
After lunch the group gathered for a Plenary session and discussed Reauthorization, State Assumption of Responsibility, and General QA. After a short break everyone split into three breakout groups to discuss Strengthening Partnerships between States and FHWA Division Offices and Programmatic Agreements, Eligibility Issues, and Sustainability. A majority attended the groups on Strengthening Partnerships. At the end of the day there was a wrap-up discussion.
On Day 2 the group was shuttled to White Clay Creek State Park. The group walked a section of a singletrack hiking and biking trail and discussed in detail what made the trail accessible to people of all abilities and what features were in place that made the trail sustainable.
Delaware's trail-crew taught the group how to avoid building trail that is inaccessible to some and miserable for others. Some of the concepts discussed were learning the importance of slope, grade, rolling dips, switchbacks, and positive control points. People from other States were able to see some of the difficulties Delaware and other Eastern States face.
Sustainability allows States to focus more on their efforts of building trails than on maintaining them over the long-term and helps ensure that trails stay open to everyone. In the afternoon the participants split into 4 groups and tackled various projects to reinforce the discussions from earlier in the day. One group finished a bridge project, while another worked on a trail re-route. The other groups finished building a boardwalk and fixed another section of trail.
Day three focused on the relationship and importance of accessibility, sustainability, and trail assessments. Similar are many of the conditions required to make a trail physically accessible and enjoyable to the general public. People with young kids or older adults who lack controlled balance, someone using a wheelchair or other assistive device, as well as an experienced mountain biker or equestrian, are all looking for an enjoyable experienced that only a well built and clearly marked trail can provide.
By designing easy grades and soft slopes we not only make it easier for people with special needs, but also help eliminate the need to constantly fix the trail. Properly designed control points provide an enjoyable experience for everyone, and also create a place where a wheelchair and bicycle can safely pass each other. You still can build connecting sections of trail that will challenge the advanced rider.
The participants were given the opportunity to practice trail assessment techniques to learn what goes into planning and designing trails or trail related maintenance issues. The tool discussed was UTAP. This process was developed by Beneficial Designs and is now managed by American Trails.
The third and final day of the conference was devoted to a workshop hosted by American Trails: Understanding Accessibility and Building Better Trails. We spent the morning at Bellevue State Park. Participants listened to presentations on accessibility by Janet Zeller and Bill Botten. "Well designed trails are more accessible for all kinds of users," said Mr. Botten. He further discussed the status of the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Outdoor Developed Areas report and how much work was still needed to complete the final report. Ms. Zeller, of the Forest Service, expressed the need for the Access Board report, and in the interim, has developed their own guidelines for on-going projects active on Forest Service land.
Information on recommended practices is available on both the Access Board and Forest Service websites. In terms of satisfying current decision-making needs, "You should use the best design information and practices currently available," says Janet Zeller.
Mike Passo of American Trails explains that "The greatest barrier to trail use is lack of knowledge about actual trail conditions. Accessibility is 80% information." We need to convey the actual experience, not just certify that a trail is built to indoor wheelchair standards. UTAP is one option for those assessments. This tool provides the user with structure for gathering information and refers to design standards to explain and promote Best Management Practices. Passo emphasizes the need to build signage which conveys the grade, slope, and surface type to users so they can understand the conditions of the trail and be able to make informed decisions about which path to take. "Universal design is a process of making outdoor recreation available to as many people as possible."
Patti Longmuir discussed the similarities and differences between Environmental, Social, And Economic sustainability. She compared the inter-relationship between UTAP and Accessibility and Sustainability. American Trails is trying to provide more training opportunities for trail assessment training so States can be informed to make the right decisions about their trails. The day ended with a wrap up discussion.
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Updated March 26, 2007