In many communities, trails are often noted as the most requested amenity and one of the highest priorities for residents. We also know that building trails and encouraging connectivity can significantly improve the health and quality of life of those who live near them. But developing a successful trail is not as simple as drawing a line on a map. The following five principles are important considerations when undertaking any trail project.
Successful trails connect people with nature and with the places they want to go. Look for opportunities to connect with other trails, parks, community gathering areas, and points of interest. These priorities are best identified through stakeholder input exercises, where the design team can hear from the people who will ultimately use the trail.
While the shortest distance for the trail might be a straight line, straight lines make for pretty boring trails. Great trails showcase the natural environment by preserving trees, opening up to significant views, and allowing access to interesting environmental features. Look for ways to enhance the trail experience by engaging as many of the human senses as possible.
Trail alignment can be impacted by many factors that are not immediately apparent, such as property ownership, easements, jurisdictional issues, governmental regulations, and environmental features. It is important to take inventory of these factors at the outset of every trail project in order to avoid costly surprises down the road.
- Terrain & Accessibility
Trails should be inclusive and welcoming to all members of the community. It is important to clarify accessibility requirements early on so that the design team can help showcase the best natural features along the trail route while also achieving accessibility goals.
The type of trail surface has the biggest impact on future maintenance requirements for the trail. While concrete trails are more expensive and virtually maintenance-free, decomposed granite trails cost less up front and are often preferred by runners, but typically require more frequent maintenance throughout the year.