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Review of Natural Surface Trails by Design

From the Fall 2004 Trail Tracks, the national newsletter of American Trails

Cover of Natural Surface Trails by Design
Buy this book online from the American Trails Store!

Natural Surface Trails by Design: Physical and Human Design Essentials of Sustainable, Enjoyable Trails by Troy Scott Parker

Longtime trail designer and researcher Troy Scott Parker, author of the popular Trails Design and Management Handbook, has authored the first of what is expected to be three innovative books on natural surface trails.

Intended for both novices and experts, this landmark book advances the state-of-the-art of natural surface trail design. It shows how to use eleven relatively simple concepts to generate sustainable, enjoyable, soil and crushed stone trails for any use— human feet, horse, mountain bicycle, wheelchair, ATV, motorcycle, 4WD vehicles— by seeing and using site-specific information much like a skilled trail designer does.

Linking art, science, psychology, and what you already know about trails and nature, the eleven concepts cover the basic human and physical forces and relationships acting on every piece of every natural surface trail.

They include the shape of nature itself; how we perceive nature; safety; efficiency of movement; playfulness; harmony; the physical forces of compaction, displacement, and erosion acting on trail treads; tread materials (soil types, crushed stone, rock); and the detailed interaction of site, slope, runoff, weather, trail width, water sources, trail use, grades, and sustainability of tread drainage.

Parker then clearly explains these concepts and their many relationships, including how to "read" trails and sites, see what conditions are actually there, see what occurs, and predict what will occur in the future through trail use and erosion. Because prediction is key to sustainable trail design, he spends considerable time showing how to predict and sustainably accommodate changes in tread shape that trail use and erosion almost inevitably cause, including loss of outslope. He illustrates his many points with abundant, well-chosen color photos and diagrams of familiar-looking trail situations.

Instead of stating rules or step-by-step procedures that can't be accurate in all instances, he builds each universal concept from its causes, effects, relationships to other concepts, and our own experience using trails. You can then flexibly apply these concepts in virtually any location and context that can support a sustainable soil or crushed stone tread. The interaction of the concepts tells you what works and what doesn't. Working with concepts also help you reason through new materials, techniques, and situations.

In addition, he shows how the concepts provide a quick, effective, trail evaluation tool that take physical and human aspects of trails&emdash; and their relationships&emdash; into account.

Natural Surface Trails by Design: Physical and Human Design Essentials of Sustainable, Enjoyable Trails is a must-have book for all natural surface trail workers, volunteers, designers, and planners for any trail use. The design language it creates is especially useful for those involved in teaching or communicating details of trail design.

Troy Scott Parker has presented a one-day workshop largely based on the book at the 2004 National Trail Symposium and other statewide and national meetings (see

Also see Trail Solutions: IMBA's Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack

Buy this book online from the new American Trails Store!

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