Trails to Nowhere

The staff adds to that feeling by strategically placing picnic shelters, trashcans, water fountains and other amenities to ease you through your walking experience — so much so that you’re left with the feeling this was a really enjoyable experience even if you never saw a single tree.

Of course, maintenance plays a big, big role in the user experience — aesthetically and practically.

Maintaining for Aesthetics, Safety and Purpose

“I tell my guys, ‘When you walk that trail, pretend you’ve never walked it before,’” says Benson. “How does it look? Is it clean? No graffiti? Smooth, even surface? Bridges are all painted — not peeling? And so on.”

Benson’s staff is always sweeping trails, emptying trashcans, plowing trails (guaranteed open within 24 hours of a major snowstorm), but the real attention to detail comes in the form of proactive maintenance.

“We had a guy break his leg on one of our trails last year,” says Benson. “We had put in a new trail, and in one section the water was draining over the top. In the summer months, no problem (unless it builds up slime), but in the winter it froze up like a Popsicle. We had a guy come around the corner, slip and break his leg. The next day we went out, pulled the panel, or stone as we call it, and put a culvert in so the water would drain underneath the path.”

Douglas County budgets $40,000 to$50,000 per year just for concrete replacement. Because the workers are building over expansive soil, whenever they get an inch of heave (or more), they pull the slab and re-pour. If it’s less than an inch, they grind it down — all in the name of alleviating trip points.

And they do other things — mow wide berms next to the trails so nobody can sneak up on someone using the path, trim low-hanging limbs so bikers and equestrians can ride without ducking, and follow “best practices” when it comes to trail creation (eight feet wide, 2 percent maximum cross-slope grade, 5 percent maximum grade or less) — at least as much as possible.

“We are in a mountainous region, so we may not be able to meet the 5 percent maximum grade on a certain trail,” says Randy Burkhardt, Trail and Open Space Planner for Douglas County, “but in those cases we work to make sure there’s an equivalent trail somewhere in the county.”

Equivalent means the same basic experience — and in Douglas County, the staff prides itself on making sure that experience is awesome. PRB

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Related posts:

  1. Water Trails
  2. Maintenance
  3. Alabama Trails Conference
  4. National Trails Fund Grants
  5. Happy Trails

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