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Review of Troy Parker's Trail Design and Management Handbook

An internationally used design guide for multiple use concrete/asphalt trails, crushed stone trails, boardwalks, and other trail features.


Trail Design and Management Handbook for the Open Space & Trails Department of Pitkin County, Colorado by Troy Scott Parker

  • 228 pages, 8.5x11 inches, spiral wire binding
  • over 324 line drawings
  • for availability contact the author at Natureshape

Review by Stuart Macdonald, editor, American Trails Magazine

As a reference for the trail planner, builder, and manager, this book is one of the real bargains in the trails field. While backcountry dirt trails have been extensively written about, this is the most comprehensive publication on improved and surfaced trails. It includes design description and specifications for hard-surface as well as crushed rock trails.

"The best trails provide a rich combination of landscape, visual and sensory experiences, intellectual discoveries, and emotions and feelings that continually makes them enjoyable to use, time and time again."
—Troy Scott Parker

One of the most valuable aspects of the book is the section on crusher fines (crushed rock) trails. No one has written more extensively on this type of trail which is now used throughout the country. For anyone working with the varieties of crushed stone, limestone screenings, gravel, and other types of surface improvement this book is essential. Success or failure depends first on proper selection of the material; the chapter on Specification and Testing of Crusher Fines is your best guide.

Another benefit of the the book is that is covers multiple-use paths. Recent design guides have focused on the needs of individual uses such as horses, mountain bicycling, and persons with disabilities. Parker's book specifically covers shared use designs, and how to make management choices on real-world issues among various users. The section on crusher fines also helps managers make these trails suitable for different types of users. The section on paving also helps make decisions about the pros and cons of both asphalt and concrete trails. Again, the level of detail provides real help in learning the essentials of correct specification and design.

The hundreds of drawings were made specifically for this publication, and clarify all of the concepts. The drawings are especially useful in showing the details of construction, and such features as signs. The many topics covered are made clear and easily understood by this wealth of illustrations.

The book was commissioned by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program (Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado). Written as a Pitkin County ordinance by reference, it had to be detailed enough to design and build anything that could arise in future years. As such, it goes into important detail to explain topics not usually covered well in other design guides. Of particular value are the sections on drainage, grades, boardwalks, sign systems, trailheads, and bridges. The section on trail proposal and evaluation process includes planning guidelines and a checklist based on those guidelines.

Written in 1994, "Trails Design and Management Handbook" has proved its value across the US and beyond and is still in use.

About the author

Troy Scott Parker is president of Natureshape LLC. He has designed trails and trail systems for the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and private developers in many different states and ecosystems. He is also well known for his trail design seminars: Trailshaping - Generating Solutions - Better, Faster, Smarter & Cheaper.

He authored and published Natural Surface Trails by Design: Physical and Human Design Essentials of Sustainable, Enjoyable Trails, the groundbreaking book which introduces trailshaping. For the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, he authored the natural surface trail portions of Trail Planning, Design and Development Guidelines, a comprehensive planning, design, construction, and maintenance guide for all trail types and uses.

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