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Planning Trails & Greenways

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A look at many trail systems around the world with emphasisi on Planning 2. Regional Linkage Trails/Multi-Entity/Partnerships 3. Resource Focus/Education/Interpretation 4. Maintenance/Monitoring/Management.


Innovative Non-motorized Trails Projects and Ideas

The following information is for non-motorized trail systems and focuses on potential special initiative projects that could occur or do exist in Colorado. Non-motorized trails for hiking, bicycling (on and off road), horseback riding, kayaking/canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing were considered. Example projects from other areas of the United States and Europe are provided as well as trail expert’s ideas that came from brainstorming sessions or phone discussions.

photo of trail and trees along canal

Highline Canal trail is one of Colorado's system of irrigation corridor trails



Major Criteria For a Quality Project

Criteria for Successful Trail System Development

Categories of Discussion

Please realize most of the trail systems listed in the discussion would fit well under all the categories listed below. However, we have placed certain trail systems under a specific category to help illustrate specific points.
1. Planning
2. Regional Linkage Trails/Multi-Entity/Partnerships
3. Resource Focus/Education/Interpretation
4. Maintenance/Monitoring/Management

photo of trail sign

Superior Hiking Trail has great signage and
overnight facilities along the way


Quality Planning is a Key Component to a Successful Trail System

Some trail systems may start with very simple plans in relation to a fledgling idea while other efforts may have highly sophisticated, well funded planning efforts; but all were planned. In each case the people implementing the trail system had a vision, criteria for creating and linking different segments of the trail system, and considered how the system might be sustained and maintained over the long term.

The plan should have the following components:

Context. The plan should clearly show how the trail links into a larger system, what natural, historic, and cultural resources surround it, existing surrounding land uses, and how the trail links to needed facilities such as a trailhead.

Inventory/Analysis/Synthesis (Natural, Historic, Cultural, and Use Patterns). The plan should define existing conditions along the trail including such elements as land uses, facilities, environmental conditions, historic and cultural resources, users, use patterns, and trail conditions. Individuals using the plan should be able to clearly understand where sensitive resources exist, what and where trail problems exist, and how the trail is being used.

Needs and Desires. The plan should define problems that need to be addressed in order to make the trail system successful and it should also define desired goals.

Vision. The plan should clearly state a vision for the trail in the future and state what will be achieved by implementing the plan.

Plan Development, Implementation Strategies. The plan should provide a clear picture of what is being proposed for the trail system and how the plan will be implemented and maintained. The plan should include sufficient implementation strategies that generally include design, construction, fund raising, promotion, education and interpretation, partnerships, priorities, and maintenance strategies. Phasing plans are often needed since many plans are implemented in progressive phases over time. Costs are also needed even if they are general.

A Successful Trail System Generally has a Grassroots Component and is Planned with Public/Private Partners.

Partnerships often begin forming early and broaden during later planning phases. Planning is done cooperatively with diverse entities providing input and assisting at key times throughout the plan’s development. The successful trail system projects inventoried were all partnership projects that involved cooperation between different levels of government and often the public.

Creative Solutions and Breaking Away From the Norm are Part of Many Successful Efforts

Creativity can be illustrated in solving problems at any level, from how the partners work together to how the trail is maintained is the future. Creative solutions are often the impetus that gives the plan the needed excitement and support that is needed to carry the project through.Developing a trail system that allowed volunteer participation in the construction and maintenance of the trail is an important component of the Hidden Valley Park Natural Area project. The partner organizations had several reasons for making this element key to the project, including building community commitment to the park area and stretching the City’s construction dollars by employing volunteer labor wherever possible.

To facilitate volunteerism, Big Muddy developed the Hidden Valley Park Natural Area Trail Design and Construction Erosion Mitigation Manual. The manual was developed for use by park staff and volunteers, guiding them in trail construction efforts. Big Muddy staff attended International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) trail design training, to learn the latest techniques in sustainable trail design and building.

IMBA and US Forest Service trail manuals were incorporated into the design standards for the trail and referenced in the construction manual. Big Muddy adapted these techniques to Hidden Valley’s unique features and highly erosive loess soils. The manual outlines the trail system goals and design guidelines, hiking trail design guidelines, and erosion control strategies. It provides photographs, illustrations, text and references to aid park staff and volunteers in planning the segments of trail to be constructed and the techniques to be employed.

To ensure that Kansas City parks staff was knowledgeable on how to direct volunteers in trail construction, Big Muddy conducted a “Train-the-Trainers” session for park staff and volunteer leaders. The group learned how to clear the trail corridor, construct full bench trails including grade reversals when necessary, and install facines and debris dams to correct eroded areas. The Workshop designed and fabricated a trail template to aid volunteers in building the trail to the desired width and correct trail surface cross-slope.

Kansas City Parks & Recreation has held several trail building events since the initial training session. In October 2007, 250 volunteers for VLM, Inc. donated one work day to clear and build trail. Additional trail days were held in November 2007 and June 2008, drawing another 200 volunteers to clear, repair and expand the trail system.

Successful Projects Often Work in Tandem with Existing Efforts and Extend From Those Efforts

For example, Colorado has a successful Scenic Byway Program that is well funded. They have established
criteria for what constitutes a scenic byway and have defined centers and points of interest along the way.
Trail systems that link these same scenic byway centers and points of interest could be established in tandem
with the scenic byways. The trails need not go along the roads but could take scenic trail routes and link
many of the same resources. Existing trails could most likely be used in some cases.

Think Big and Bold

Most of the successful trail initiatives researched included big, bold ideas. Examples of a few implemented
successful projects include:

The Vienna to Prague and the Vienna to Budapest Trails that link different countries together and provide exceptional visitor experiences as one moves through rural countrysides and famous historic cities.

Centennial Trail/The Black Hills National Forest Hiking Trail is 111 miles long and goes through much of the Black Hills of South Dakota. The trail goes from prairie grasslands to Black Hills high country and is managed by five agencies.

The Lake Champlain Bikeways is a 350-mile network around the entire Lake Champlain and along the Richelieu River in Quebec. There are many shorter loops within the larger loop and bridges and ferries to create many options.

The Essex Heritage Project includes the entire county of Essex and grew from a small town project to include 34 communities. The area is now a National Heritage Area and involves government entities at all levels as well as the private sector.

The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network includes the largest estuary in the United States and extends from Norfolk Virginia to the Chumming River Basin in New York State.

The Gunflint Trail comprises over 175 km of crosscountry ski trail. Portions are lighted for night skiing and a hut to hut system is maintained and managed by area businesses.

Superior Hiking Trail includes over 200 miles of hiking paths along the ridgeline of Lake Superior from northern Minnesota to near Canada. It connects 7 state parks and goes though miles of national forest. The layout makes it suitable for day-hikers, long distance backpackers, and lodge-to-lodge hikers.



The following trail systems are listed under this category because they link many different areas together, provide exceptional visitor experiences, and involve multi-entity partnerships. Several of the trails listed under Resource Focus/Education and Interpretation also fit into this category but had specific educational or themed focuses so they seemed to fit better in the category in which they are listed. All of these linkage trail systems involve partnerships and link to communities.

Vienna to Prague Biking Tour

Location: Vienna, Austria to Prague, Czech Republic
Purpose: Provide quality biking experience that passes through beautiful countryside, natural and historic
sites, and links to rural and urban communities.
Scale/Use: 49,035 kilometers, designed for bikers with off and on-road travel routes. Lesser-trafficked
roads were used wherever possible.

Description: Major reasons successful:

Vienna to Budapest Trail

Location: Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary
Purpose: Provide an off-road trail that links two countries.
Scale/Use: Off-road hiking and biking trail
Description: Off-road trail that passes by many communities with excellent support services. Heavily used, safe, fun, and diverse. Follows major river drainages in the region.

Romantische Weg/Danube Bike Trail

Location: Along prominent routes from Passau to Vienna, Danube river Valley
Use: Primarily bicyclists
Description: Following the Danube River Valley, the paved and separated bikeway links some of Austria’s most impressive cultural sites that include castles, abbeys, and medieval-era towns. The trail features 90% traffic free bike trails on primarily flat terrain, and affords users to experience agrarian landscapes of farms, orchards and vineyards that lie between population centers. The Austrian Federal Railways offer substantial services, such as transport and bike rental at 170 stations through the country.

Ice Age Trail

Location: Wisconsin
Purpose: Provide extensive trail opportunities for bikers and hikers throughout much of the State of Wisconsin. Highlights the fascinating glacial physiographic landscape from high marks in kettle moraines that are visible remnants of the last Ice Age. The Ice Age Trail promotes conservation of native flora and fauna and endangered habitats including wetlands, woodlands, oak savanna, and prairie. The trail provides economic enhancement for related communities and areas.
Scale/Use: 1000 miles proposed (600 miles complete), mostly hiking and bike trails, much is off-road, however some sections are on lesser-used roads.
Description: Extensive national and state scenic trail that has been featured nationwide (National Geographic and Backpacker’s magazines). Trail serves over three million visitors a year and noted as number one outdoor recreational resource in the State by Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The trail has an extensive volunteer program with 20 chapters and 2100 volunteers. The volunteers help to develop and maintain the trails. The trail is managed through a cooperative agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the National Park Service. Support for trail development comes from private donations; the State has matching funds for acquisition for $500,000 per year.

A special bike festival on USFS lands illustrates partnerships with the USFS to enhance area economies, build stronger communities, and enhance public/private partnerships. The area has a strong winter snowmobile economy but a limited economy in the summer. A community asked if they could have a bike festival on USFS lands. The lands had numerous logging roads but were not be logged at the moment. The USFS granted permission and the community and volunteers signed the logging roads while a local bike store mapped the route and helped with the promotion. USFS gave the land and helped establish bike route criteria. The event has been a great success and has built strong support between private and public agencies and enhanced the local economy.

Superior Hiking Trail

Location: Minnesota
Purpose: To provide a hiking trail that will link people with nature along the ridgeline of Lake Superior’s north shore.
Scale/Use: 200-mile long, narrow footpath for hikers only, no other uses are permitted.
Description: This is one of the nation’s premier long-distance hiking trails; designated by Backpacker magazine as one of the nation’s top 10 greatest trails. The trail links seven state parks and many areas of Superior National Forest together with rural communities. It provides scenic overlooks, spectacular views of Lake Superior, waterfalls, forests, and wildlife and has campsites every 5-8 miles. The trail layout makes it ideal for day-hikers, long-distance backpackers, and lodge-to-lodge hikers. A shuttle service makes end-to-end day hikes possible for one-car hiking parties. The trail system is supported by an extremely successful volunteer organization (Superior Hiking Trail Association) with thousands of members who collect dues and maintain the system. There are trail maps, a Guide to Superior Hiking Trail, shuttle services, special programs, and even special programs provided by guest naturalist guides that are supported by area lodges. Excellent lodge and restaurant services link to the trail.

Indian Creek Trail

Location: Douglas County
Purpose: Non-motorized multi-use trail, provided a nice trail for horseback riding
Scale/Use: 15-mile loop trail
Description: The trail was well planned and worked especially well for horses. It involved many partners including Douglas County, USFS, Roxborough State Park, Denver Water Board, Trails Conservation Service, and Parker/Elizabeth Riding Club. The trail and the trail effort have been a highly successful partnership project. Sections of the trail were realigned to minimize erosion and provide a more environmentally sensitive trail corridor. The campground was originally for cars; it has been redesigned to provide space for horseback users.

This trail also meets many of the criteria that horseback riders appreciate. They want:

Mt. Ranier Area Winter Use Trail

Location: State of Washington
Purpose: Provide high country trailhead access to motorized and non-motorized users as long as they could work together successfully concerning trail use.
Description: The USFS and State worked with both crosscountry and snowmobile users to obtain a high country trailhead for early season snow use. Both motorized and non-motorized users had to work together compatibly before either public agency would commit to the project. By agreeing to work together the snow users got a road access snowplowed for them and a trailhead to winter use trails. Private entities then got together and built a warming cabin, helped groom trails, and helped to provide a safe winter trail system that was well signed and inviting.

Western Europe Trekking Hut to Hut Systems

Location: Throughout the mountain regions of Western Europe, for example they are in the countries of Switzerland, Italy, and Croatia
Purpose: Provide hiking trails through the mountain regions of Western Europe for both visitors and for herders. The hut to hut system is provided for user comfort and safety.
Description: Trails systems in the mountainous areas of Western Europe have been provided for public trekking for centuries. Along the trails are a series of huts, some are small and simple while others are highly elaborate. At the huts you can obtain food (generally served family style with drinks/primarily beer). In some areas locals service the huts by use of mules. The huts provide wonderful destinations and serve as centers to meet people, share stories, obtain information, and have shelter from the often harsh mountainous weather.

Mississippi River Trail

Location: Mississippi River Corridor, Missouri to Louisiana
Purpose: To provide a lengthy bike trail through America’s heartland
Scale/Use: Over 1200 miles from St. Louis to New Orleans
Description: The Mississippi River Trail is in process of creation. It is a 7-state bike route that follows along low-volume roads and is identified by national bike route signs featuring the “MRT” logo. Traveling over 1200 miles from St. Louis, Missouri to New Orleans, Louisiana, it passes through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. The states of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin are actively working to create a continuous trail from the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca to St. Louis, with a vision of joining the MRT. This will create a 10-state, 2000-mile route from the headwaters of the Mississippi to New Orleans.

Minnesota Water Trails

Location: State of Minnesota
Purpose: Non-motorized water trails that traverse lakes and streams
Scale/Use: Over 3,000 miles of designated water routes
Description: Minnesota – the "Land of the Lakes" – has several thousand miles of water routes developed by various government agencies cooperating with local citizens. Examples include Voyageurs National Park, which commemorates the life of the hard paddling colonial fur trappers and traders, and the St. Croix River, a federally-designated Wild and Scenic waterway that makes for a gentle 25 mile paddle to the Mississippi River. The state's Department of Natural Resources oversees 23 canoe and boating routes and has the authority to grant land for campsites and access, totaling almost 3,000 miles. The Root River Trail travels through 72 miles of a wild landscape featuring high limestone bluffs topped by dense hardwood forest. The 56-mile Kettle River has many well spaced campsites along its route, and some class II to IV rapids.

Upper and Central Gunflint Trail

Location: Northeastern Minnesota, Superior National Forest
Purpose: To provide non-motorized recreation trails (primarily winter) near private services
Scale/Use: Upper – 100 kilometers; Central – 55 kilometers
Description: Northern Minnesota's Gunflint Trail is a year-round vacation destination surrounded by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and Superior National Forest. From the village of Grand Marais on Lake Superior's north shore, the Gunflint Trail -Road (County Road 12) winds 63 paved miles north and west to Saganaga Lake at the Canadian border. Along this automobile route are numerous trailheads that allow access to an extensive system of non-motorized, interconnected loop trails. Development, maintenance, advertising and monitoring of the trail system is almost entirely funded by neighboring private enterprise that belong to the Gunflint Trail Association. The Association sponsors special events along the trail, provides “concession” services at various locations, maintains comfort station facilities, and provides shuttles to trailheads. The Gunflint Trail is an appropriate example of a Federal-Private partnership to provide recreational facilities for public use.

Minnesota Rails to Trails

Location: Throughout Minnesota
Purpose: To provide non-motorized and motorized recreation trails (primarily paved) for hiking, biking, horseback riding, skating, skiing, snowmobiling
Scale/Use: Over 250 miles
Description: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has come to the fore as a leader in converting abandoned rails to trails. At 250 miles, Minnesota has more paved rail-to-trail routes than any other state, many of which are located in rural areas dispersed throughout the state. The Heartland State Trail is a 49-mile multiple use route that links 7 town in central Minnesota. When completed, the Paul Bunyan State trail will extend 100 miles along a former railroad grade, and provide level, wheelchair accessible route. Generally, trails traverse wooded and agricultural lands, and provide views of lakes, rivers and streams. A popular destination for birders, the trails affords opportunities for viewing a variety of wildlife.

Black Hills National Forest Equestrian Trails / Facilities

Location: Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota
Uses: Primarily equestrian
Description: Within the Black Hills, five groups and horse campgrounds have been developed to cater to the needs of equestrian users. In general, facilities are equipped with restrooms, drinking water, horse trails, campsites, corral areas, and parking ‘spurs’ for trailers.

Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail

Location: Montana
Purpose: To provide facilities for biking, motorcycling, ATVs, hiking, horseback riding
Scale/Use: 31 miles (MT), 46 miles total
Description: This rail-trail connect four major population central in Mineral County, Montana, and is a critical component of an interconnected, multi-state rail-trail system envision between Missoula and Seattle. The trail is unique in that it provides for both motorized and non-motorized use, and passes through eleven tunnels (including the 1.8-mile long ‘Taft’ Tunnel) and nine high, steel tresses. Management of the facility relies on a cooperative arrangement between the USFS, Mineral County Board of commissioners, and Chamber of Commerce, Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development, and others.


Ideas Related to These Special Initiative Trail Systems

1. Front Range Trails Initiative (Trinidad to Cheyenne). This effort could start by finding the lesser-used roads and existing off-road bike trails that could be used to link Trinidad to Ft. Collins or Cheyenne. The project would need to be a partnership involving interested communities. It may be feasible to use existing trails or little used roads only, at least for the early phases. Early phases would include the creation of a simple, clear sign code system that is creative and obviously placed so visitors will trust and understand the system. The signage system would be used consistently all along the Front Range trail, even along the urban trail sections. Early phases would also include the creation and distribution of an image map showing the trail route and points of interest along the way. Over time trail sections that are on-road, but could be made off-road could be established and more sophisticated support service connections and volunteer maintenance and advertising organizations could be established.

2. Plains to Mountains Bike Trail/Bike across Colorado (Denver to Grand Junction Trail). Since the traffic is highly focused on I-70 through the mountains, numerous parallel roads are lightly used and would make good bike routes. In addition, large sections of trails currently exist parallel or near to I-70 (e.g., Clear Creek, Vail Pass, Glenwood Springs), that could be used as part of an east/west trail system. One of the major hurdles in creating this system is getting past some physiographic obstacles. The system could also link to existing rail transportation so users could bike and then use the train to diversify their experiences. For example, users could bike one way and take the trail back, or bike and train certain sections since there is a train system from Denver to Winter Park, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction. This system could also tie into potential water trail systems so visitors could bike certain areas, kayak or canoe other sections, and then use train transportation.

3. Canal Trail System. Work with ditch owners to create canal trail systems. This is becoming feasible in more and more areas since large shares of ditch rights are now owned by municipalities.

4. Eastern Colorado Trail System. Eastern Colorado has limited trail use even though there are many secondary roads with little traffic, interesting towns that could supply services, economic sectors that would like the tourist business, and gently sloping terrain that make the area excellent biking for the average biker and families. In addition, a bike trail system could be provided without developing many new facilities. Specific areas in towns could be used as trailheads and lesser-used roads could be designated as bike routes. Work with local eastern Chambers of Commerce and people knowledgeable of the roads and trails in the east and develop an Eastern Colorado Trail System.

5. State of Colorado River Trail Systems (from the mountains through the plains). Even though Colorado has some dangerous areas for in-water use there are many sections of the State’s waterways that would make excellent in-water, non-motorized trails. The great feature of an in-water trail is that no one has to build the trail. For successful in-water trails, system criteria would need to be developed that included such elements as size, character, interest, safety, continuity, relationship to communities/services, and the need for in-water modifications. Candidate areas for river trails include the: Colorado, Yampa, South Platte, Arkansas, and Gunnison Rivers.

Sections of these trails could provide exceptional in-water kayak or canoe trail systems that link to communities for support services, access, education, and interpretation. River trails could be especially successful in eastern Colorado where the waters may have fewer impediments than in the mountains. For example in the plains there could be an excellent section from Denver to Julesburg on the South Platter while in the mountains a trail could start around State Bridge and go through Rifle and possibly on to Grand Junction. Education concerning water use adjacent to private lands would be critical and obstructions would need to be removed and dangerous areas clearly identified.

The in-water non-motorized trail system could be provided by multiple partners and would provide an excellent opportunity to partner with the State Division of Wildlife for environmental education. For example, the Rifle Comprehensive Plan includes recommendations to create a non-motorized trail in the Colorado River with special trail loops for wildlife and environmental education. This could be an excellent pilot project since there is a visitor center and parking area at the Colorado River.

6. Land and River Trail Combination Systems. Certain land and river trail systems could be linked so users could bike or hike certain sections and then kayak or canoe other areas. Boaters could also canoe down and then hike back. Canoe/kayak rentals and bike rentals may need to be available in specific areas for this to be successful but this service could supply additional economic opportunities to communities and may be desirable.

7. Hut to Hut Trail Systems Developed and Maintained by Community Businesses. The Gunflint Trail in Minnesota (cross-country skiing) could be used as an example to start a similar type of program in Colorado. Community businesses could develop and maintain the cross-country ski trail and the huts. In addition, they would provide information, advertise, map, make reservations, provide shuttle service, program events, and manage the entire system while primarily using federal lands. The trails could relate directly to area businesses so guests, who prefer to stay in a lodge could be provided accommodations. The trail system could be designed using existing logging or other access roads.

8. State Wide or Front Range Snowshoe Pilot Project (Brainerd Lake Winter Trail Operations and Maintenance). Snowshoe use is an underserved activity in the State. A “Snowshoe Colorado Initiative” could be developed in which a plan is developed directly related to snowshoeing and a pilot project is implemented. For example, the State Trails Program could take responsibility for winter operation and maintenance of the Brainerd Lake cross-country ski and snowshoe area. No new facilities would probably need to be constructed, however, parking areas would need to be better designated, restroom facilities would need to be provided, trails would need to be clearly designated and a quality map is needed. Area businesses and manufacturers could become partners and help produce brochures, books, and advertising. If it was found desirable, snowshoe trails and cross-country ski trails would be separated in certain areas. Use and resource damage could be monitored so impacts and user satisfaction could be determined. A volunteer monitoring and information group could be organized to assist with this pilot program. The successes and failures from this pilot program could be used in providing other snowshoe trail areas.

9. Roaring Fork Railroad Transit and Non-Motorized Use Corridor. Work with appropriate entities to see if the proposed Roaring Fork Railroad Transit corridor can have a non-motorized multiple use corridor within the right-of-way. See if the transit corridor can be used a trail corridor until the transit facility is implemented.



The following are examples of trails that specifically illustrate resource sensitivity (natural, historic, cultural, and scenic) and education and interpretation. Trails listed below have the following characteristics:

AA Country Walks

Location: England and Wales
Scale/Use: 103,000-mile network of countryside footpaths and bridleways with public access. There are 20,000 additional urban pathways leading to these rural trails. Most walks are 3 to 6 miles long starting and ending at a trailhead. However, some connect all the way across a region or the country. Some are low use unpaved or paved roads while others are unpaved separated paths. All connect to rural towns or service areas such as bed and breakfasts.
Purpose: Provide walks and bridlepaths for the public throughout England and Wales while educating the user about the significant natural, cultural, and scenic resources.
Description: 205 of the trails are described in a wonderful book published by Drive Publications for the Automobile Association. The book (AA Country Walks) contains an in-depth description of each trail including incredibly beautiful drawings and aerial perspectives that describe each walk. The two-page description for each walk provides directions, natural, scenic and historic sites and a very clear map showing the route. In addition, there is a full size plastic pocket one can use to hold the trail sheet. A small pocket sized handbook is also provided that gives information on a broad range of natural resources such as trees, mushrooms, reptiles, birds, mammals, cattle, sheep, and ponies.

Essex Heritage Project

Location: Essex County, Massachusetts
Purpose: For private and public entities to work together to preserve resources, provide unified interpretation of a nationally significant story, and enhance the quality of life in the area.
Description: Started as a grassroots effort in the City of Salem that later expanded to include all of Essex County. A plan was developed that establish themes and defined resources that exemplified those themes. Then heritage trails (boat, bike, hike, transit, car) were established to link the themed resource areas. In addition, a regional visitor orientation center and staging area was established along with several subcenters. The planning began in 1990; now the area is a designated National Heritage Area managed by the Essex Heritage Commission, a non-profit organization. Along with trail development an extensive wayfinding program, resource guides for public schools, a heritage marketing program to locals, and one marketing brochure per theme (rather than each individual site competing with one another and having their own brochure) were created. This is a major partnership success story.

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

Location: Chesapeake Bay Watershed including portions of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Links a network of natural, cultural, historical, and recreational sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay region that will enhance people’s connection to the resources in meaningful ways that foster conservation and restoration of the Bay.


Scale/Uses: Expansive area including several states linking parks, wildlife refuges, historic communities, maritime museums, and waterways. Types of trails include biking, water, walking, and driving.
Description: The system includes a network for orientation, information and linkages that include Gateway Hubs, Regional Information Centers, Gateway Sites, and Gateway Connections. There are established themes and stories related to the area’s unique resources. In addition, there is an organized plan for the distribution of information, maps, and guides. Water trails are publicly accessible non-motorized paddle routes along rivers, streams, and smaller bays that link to land facilities such as restaurants and lodging. Biking routes link in a region and walking trails generally link sites within a smaller geographic area. Management is through the National Park Service that facilitates are developed by working with EPA, non-profit organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies. Congress recognized the Network in 1998 through the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act. There is a Chesapeake Bay Gateway Network Framework Plan that guides development.

Freedom Trail

Location: Boston
Purpose: To link historic and cultural resources – including 16 historic sites -- in a clear identifiable manner for visitor enjoyment and for the education of the City’s historic resources and unique neighborhoods.
Scale/Use: 2.5-mile pedestrian trail system through the heart of Boston (4 hours)
Description: The concept was created by a newspaper reporter who came up with the idea during a City recession when there were few visitors, and those visiting the city encountered difficulties in finding their way through the curvilinear streets. The trail started as a simple red painted line to connect six historic sites in downtown Boston. The trail now links 16 major historic resources throughout significant neighborhoods of the downtown waterfront. Public restrooms are available for use along the route. After many successful years as a wonderful guide for visitors the red painted line is now being replaced with more permanent red brick paving and a special signage system specifically for the Freedom Trail. The trail is managed by a citizen committee under the Foundation for Boston National Historic Park and includes many partners.

El Camino de Santiago

Location: Across southwestern France through northern Spain, from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France) to Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
Purpose: Provide a hiking route to Santiago for purposes of celebrating the Feast of St. James and visiting the tomb of St. James the Apostle.
Scale/Use: An 800 kilometer public hiking route that goes along off-road paths, roads, and canals to reach the historic church in Santiago de Compostella where Saint James is buried. The route marks one of three principal pilgrimages from the medieval era that also included Rome and Jerusalem.
Description: Several thousand people (in 1991, 7274 persons) walk the Way every year, whether from the Pyrenees, from parts of France or further afield. Most parts of the walker’s route are also accessible to those riding mountain bikes. Well signed hiking trail that passes through miles of attractive countryside and links to many wonderful historic communities ranging from small rural hamlets to cities. Refuges are found every 10 to 15 kilometers, many of which are housed at churches and monasteries. Camping facilities are located along the route, and provide affordable accommodations for the many sojourners. Generally, "pilgrims" depart their camps at 6-6:30 a.m., and arrive at their destination by 2 p.m. A wide diversity of services are provided all along the route and a special shell necklace is given to each hiker who reaches the church. The hikers are recognizable all along the route due to the hiking sticks they carry. Excellent camaraderie and a sharing of experiences occur along the way. The trail system is managed by a wide variety of public and private entities.
The two trails listed below are excellent examples of especially careful trail planning and development in sensitive resource areas.

Emerald Trail

Location: Lake Tahoe, California
Purpose: Provide a needed trail link in an area that has highly strict development regulations due to sensitive resources.
Scale/Use: For hiking around a section of Lake Tahoe and linking to a more extensive trail system.
Description: The trail had to be highly sensitively designed to minimize damage to sensitive vegetation, causeways, and drainages. Careful demarcation was done so visitors would know the route and to ensure they stayed on the trail. The trail won a special design award from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, an agency known for their strict regulations.

Columbine Open Space Trail

Location: Douglas County, Colorado
Purpose: Provide an important trail link that involved sensitive resource areas (potential Preble’s Jumping Mouse habitat)
Description: Douglas County worked jointly with the State Division of Wildlife (DOW) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to successfully locate a trail that was outside the Preble’s Jumping Mouse habitat areas. The trail was carefully monitored so sensitive trail development could occur. The trail is built, yet not yet open to the public.

Ideas Related to These Special Initiative Trail Systems

1. Resource Themed Trails. Define natural, cultural, and historic resource themes and provide a trail system that links themed resource areas together. Sample cultural themes in Colorado might be related to mining, railroads, and ranching/farming. Natural themes might be based on the State’s geographic units or on the idea of plains to glaciers. The trail system could link these geographic units and interpretation would help users understand the changing ecology of the State. A partner might also be the Museum of Natural History in Denver since they have excellent dioramas of the different ecosystems in Colorado; these dioramas, with expanded information related to trails/first hand experiences, could be used as an orientation center. The Museum of Natural History might also be willing to have programs related to specific ecosystems along the trail system.

2. Historic Structures Hut to Hut System. Use historic structures that exist throughout certain USFS and BLM areas for hike, mountain bike, horseback ride destinations. These areas could also link to historic towns and private bed and breakfast or other service areas. The USFS and BLM could also work with private enterprises to so food and other services could be provided to users.

3. Create a Heritage State Park System and/or a Stronger Link to the State Historical Society. A heritage state park system could help ensure significant historical and cultural resources are preserved and adaptively reused throughout the State. Also link to the State Historical Society for both research information, preservation, and funding. Partner with the State Historical Society for development of the historic themed trails. This was proposed in the Cripple Creek Trails Plan for both in-town and regional trail corridors and could be used as a pilot project area.

4. Non-Motorized Trail System Tied to Scenic Byways Program. Work with the Scenic Byways Program and their partners to define off-road trails that link many of the same destinations and resource areas.

5. Partner with Open Space Acquisitions to Designate Trails/Build Stronger Relationship with Trusts/Funds. As open space areas are being designated consider if trail systems are appropriate and if they are create trail easements at the same time the open space acquisition/conservation easements are being created. Work with specific trusts like the Colorado Cattlemens Association to develop educational/interpretive programs related to trail etiquette in ranching and farming areas. State trails could help with the trail component.

4. Maintenance/Monitoring/Management

If trails are initially well planned, designed, and constructed, long-term maintenance and management will be reduced. In addition, if trails are well managed to lessen impacts, the trail will remain more successful. Therefore, maintenance and management should be addressed at the outset of a project to ensure:

Trail construction and maintenance must be accomplished correctly or management can have endless headaches and the trail can be an unpleasant and unsafe experience. Whoever is doing trail design, construction, and maintenance should be well trained. Volunteers who are constructing, maintaining, or monitoring trails can be extremely helpful and are critically important for pubic agencies so positive relationships can be established. However, volunteers must be well trained and appropriately supervised. One cannot assume a trail can be built and then merely left to volunteers to maintain. Trail maintenance funding is vital to the success of a trail.

Projects are often initiated and carried out by a small, grassroots organizations comprising a group of involved citizens. The planning, design, and construction process absorbs the enthusiasm of the project constituents during the initial phases of developing support, often leaving little pooled energy to tackle management and maintenance issues. Moreover, energy wanes when construction is completed; however, the trail/greenway is just beginning its life.

The cost for ignoring management and maintenance issues necessitates the need to re-build project enthusiasm and project relationships at a time when most people are just beginning to value the project. Trails are generally managed and maintained through a variety of partnership arrangements. While partnerships are crucial to creating a community-based resource that contribute to long-term success of a project, typically one organization becomes the “enduring” management/maintenance entity. Therefore, it is essential that responsibilities for maintenance – both human and financial resources – be determined when selecting the potential partners that will sponsor a trail project.

Mott Training Center

The California State Parks Mott Training Center -- an award winning facility and program -- offers a comprehensive training series that provides the technical knowledge and skills to field personnel from California State Parks and other agencies. Located on the Monterey peninsula, the Training Center consists of modern classrooms, audio-visual rooms, a conference room, and a library, offices and three housing lodges that can accommodate 60 persons. The program prepares a Trails Program Coordinator at each Parks District that will organize and implement a trail management and maintenance program, develop an inventory of trail features and associated budget, and fully understand and comply with ADA standards as they apply to trail systems.

East Bay Regional Park District Volunteer Program and Maintenance Endowment

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) manages 88,000 acres of land in 55 parks, and maintains almost 1,000 miles of trails. Maintenance and rehabilitation of the existing trails is an ongoing process (similar to repairing potholes on public roadways) and is required due to public use, annual vegetation growth, and other forces of nature, particularly from erosion caused by the flow of water over and adjacent to trails.

In order to provide for visitor safety and to protect parkland resources, EBRPD staff and volunteers provide a much-needed source of labor to repair and enhance existing trails and construct new narrow trails. In turn, the public learns concepts of land stewardship and resource conservation while giving back to the trails system they enjoy. Typical tasks for the volunteers include installation of drainage structures, pruning, trail tread maintenance, and installation of special trail structures such as retaining walls, bridges, and causeways.

Trail maintenance is funded by numerous partnering organizations as well as a private endowment, with the interest generated being used to sponsor and support volunteer maintenance projects throughout the Park District's extensive system. By leveraging these funds for long-term growth, and by involving the public in a partnership dedicated to the preservation of trail resources through volunteer efforts, a perpetual trail maintenance program has been established to accommodate future generations.

Lake O’Hara Trail System, Yoho National Park, Canada

Situated on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, Yoho is one of the four mountain parks in Canada designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park receives a modest level of visitation, particularly on alpine trails. After years park supervision of the 70 kilometer Lake O'Hara trail system, park managers decided to document the trail conditions in a manner, which could rely on human resources of hikers.

As part of the monitoring project, 87 "photo-stations" were sited along trails in the O'Hara area. In addition to these sites, 5 of the 87 photo-stations are further monitored by transect profiles (a cross-section technique measuring trail surface wear). Using the database of trail change, the objective is to make management decisions founded on documented baseline data and establish well rounded maintenance and rehabilitation schedules for this high use area. Monitoring is returning a stream of data about trail construction techniques, rehabilitation success and normal environmental maturing.

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting and fostering a sense of personal responsibility for Colorado's public lands among its citizens and visitors. Through the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers and a handful of supporting staff, VOC accomplishes its mission in several ways: VOC Projects, The Volunteer Clearinghouse, and training workshops.

The VOC hosts volunteer projects throughout the state in partnership with land management agencies such as the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Parks, the National Park Service and other non-profit organizations such as land conservancies, municipal and county governments. Typically, volunteer organizations repair trails, plant trees, construct whole-access facilities, improve wildlife habitats, restore wetlands throughout the State of Colorado. The Volunteer Clearinghouse maintains a listing of volunteer opportunities throughout Colorado in the natural resources and environmental arena. The Clearinghouse posts opportunities on-line for the purpose of fostering short- and long-term volunteer commitments. Information is organized by category and region, and includes opportunities to volunteer in projects such as backcountry patrol, botany surveys, or serve as campground host. The “trail work” category includes a listing of 106 “opportunities” that range from trail building, maintenance, and monitoring.

The VOC also offers training workshops to land management agencies, nonprofit organizations, user groups or other interested citizens in such subject areas as: crew leading, trail construction and maintenance skills, and volunteer project management. The programs are organized and taught by volunteer instructors who have years of professional and volunteer experience in managing and designing volunteer projects. Workshops typically extend over a three-day weekend, and are reasonably priced. Course include the following:

Trail Construction & Maintenance
Introduction to Trail Design
Rock Wall Construction
Switchback Construction
Waterbars & Drainage Dips
Rock Step Construction
Trail Closure & Revegetation
Managing & Organizing Volunteer Projects
Crew Leader Training
Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics and Wilderness First Aid
Colorado Trail Maintenance Training Concept

A group of individuals in Colorado that are interested in improving trail construction and maintenance in Colorado have applied for a grant to establish a mechanism to train staff and volunteers who do trail construction and maintenance. The group is trying to establish something like a “trails college” where people can take courses and learn what is needed to design, build, and construct quality trails. They particularly like the Mott Training Center Program in California and feel this program is innovative and known to be highly successful. The greatest benefit is that the program provides competent people to work in the field and gives them the background to train others.

Minnesota State Trail Maintenance

When the State Trails Coordinator was asked about trail maintenance in the state he provided the following information: Maintenance in the State is primarily due to adequate funding; he works hard to ensure adequate funding is available for the State’s trail system. They have a grants program for local trail areas that is a 50-50 match if the local entity provides maintenance. They are establishing an “Adopt A Trail Program” through a Stewardship Coordinator. Superior Trail is well maintained by a successful local foundation that has dues which go toward trail maintenance. We believe this entity also helps with surveys, advertising, and monitoring. This Foundation functions much like the Appalachian Club.

Cherry Creek Trail Ranger Program/Douglas County

Douglas County has established a Trail Ranger Program along the Cherry Creek Trail. There is a full day training program for any volunteer. At the program they receive a hat and T-shirt which they are asked to wear while working on the trail and are given a tour of the resource and an explanation of their duties. The program is a joint effort between the Town of Parker and Douglas County. Before volunteers work along the trail they are asked to go to the Town of Parker Police Department where they receive a cell phone, pager, broom, dustpan, and extra maps. Their job is to use the trail, answer questions, and provide a one- page report at the end of the day stating such incidents as vandalism, areas needing repair, and wounded wildlife. They do not carry a gun and are not expected to provide first aid; however, they have needed facilities to easily call for assistance. The downside of the program is that someone needs to manage and advertise it to keep it alive. If one does not continuously supervise the program, the number of volunteers reduces and interest vanes.

Etiquette & Caring for the Resources

Jefferson County has developed a video on trail etiquette for non-motorized users (e.g., hikers, bikers, horseback riders.) The video deals with typical potential conflicts and how best to resolve those issues. The video is well done and easy to obtain a copy. However, spokes people at the County are not sure whether the information is reaching enough of the audiences even though there has been a significant mailing. The video is titled "Trails Are For Everyone... Help Us Keep It That Way" by Jefferson County Open Space, Trail Users Guidelines. The County also uses other methods for addressing trail etiquette. They try to develop quality information signage related to trail behavior, have on-going education information and brochures, and have a “Bike Right Program.”

Leave No Trace (LNT)

The mission of the Leave No Trace (LNT) program is to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research, and partnerships. LNT Inc. oversees memberships, marketing, fundraising and program development efforts. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) maintains the educational component of Leave No Trace by offering LNT educational courses, developing educational materials and supporting the efforts of course graduates who teach LNT to the public.

The Leave No Trace program is dedicated to building awareness, appreciation, and most of all, respect for public recreation places. The program serves, in a sense, to foster “preventive maintenance” of outdoor environments while traveling and camping with care.

LTN offers comprehensive training courses that emphasize skills and techniques essential minimum impact wilderness ethics and education. Much of the information can be downloaded on-line as pdf files, thereby allowing for ease of information dissemination and lowering costs of training materials. Courses require participation in all activities and teaching exercises. Those who complete the training are equipped to understand, demonstrate, and teach state of the art minimum impact backcountry techniques for friends, family or community groups.

Minnesota Guest Lodge Naturalist Program

Along the Superior Lake Trail, lodging establishments have gotten together and started a naturalist program. They hire naturalists that are familiar with the resources on the Superior Lake Trail and enjoy teaching people. The naturalists have special programs for lodging guests along the Superior Lake Trail. Programs are designed to be fun and interactive and include such programs as wolf howling that takes place at night.


INNOVATIVE NON-MOTORIZED TRAIL PROJECTS AND IDEAS was prepared for Colorado State Trails Committee by SHAPINS ASSOCIATES Planners and Landscape Architects, Boulder, CO in August 2000

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