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Designing for Nonmotorists

Recreation: Where Engineering and Art Meet

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Recreational Trails: Crossings

  • You are in the public right-of-way.
  • See Shared Use Path discussion.

Graphic and photo of trail road crossings.


Drawing: From FHWA's Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access: Best Practices Design Guide, Chapter 6.
Photo: High Line Canal Trail, Cherry Hills Village, CO. Photo by Stuart Macdonald, American Trails.

Please Avoid!

  • Don't rip up the environment just to make a trail accessible.
    • Avoid zigzagging switchbacks: Use climbing turns.

Graphic of representation of switchbacks.


Drawing from USDA Forest Service, Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook.

Scenery

  • Use Context Sensitive Solutions thinking.
  • A finished trail should look like it belongs there: it should blend into the scenery.
  • A trail should offer scenic views.
  • Build only the width you need.
  • Use natural features.

Photo of a man crossing a bridge with pack animals. Photo of trail. Photo of trail.


Photos from USDA Forest Service, Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook.
Left: Figure 64
Middle: Figure 7
Right: Figure 4

Drainage, Wetlands

Photo of a person in a wheelchair on a trail bridge.

See also Wetland Trail Design and Construction.


Photo: Happy Creek Nature Trail, North Cascades, WA
Photo by Stuart Macdonald, September 24, 2006.

Wildlife Impact

  • Trails can impact wildlife.
  • Use caution when locating trails: Avoid sensitive areas.

Photo of a wildfire burning brush.
Wildfire at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge,
along New York State Thruway, I-90 near Seneca Falls NY: April 4, 2010.


Photo Courtesy of Joan Martin, Cortland NY
Disclosure: Sister of the Presenter.

Maintenance and Operations

  • Maintenance prevents worse problems!
  • States may use Recreational Trails Program funds for maintenance.
  • Inform the public.

Photos of a trail sign, trail bridge building, and people on a trail.

Photos: Left: Photo from Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange.
Middle: State Trail Administrators building a boardwalk/bridge at White Clay Creek State Park, Delaware, September 21, 2005.
Right: USDA Forest Service

Signs

See MUTCD Chapter 9: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov.

  • Use it carefully. These trails aren't highways.
  • Some sign sizes are excessive.

Graphic and photo of signs.

Drawing and photo: USDA Forest Service: Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.

Support Facilities

Eligible:

  • Trailside and trailhead facilities.
  • Information kiosks, call boxes.
  • Benches, hitching posts.
  • Equestrian mounting ramps.
  • Rest rooms, water.
  • Bike racks.

Photo collage of trail facilities.

Top left: Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange.
Top right: USDA Forest Service: Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.
Bottom left: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Boulder, Colorado, Taken in 2004 by Austin Brown
Bottom center: USDA Forest Service: Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.
Bottom right: USDA Forest Service: Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.

Support Facilities

  • Trailside and trailhead facilities must meet accessibility guidelines for buildings and sites.

Photo collage of accessible trail facilities.

Top left: Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange.
Top middle: MKT Trailhead Project, Columbia MO.
Top right: USDA Forest Service: Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.
Bottom left: Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway, North Dakota's National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.
Bottom middle: Bedford Depot, Minuteman Bikeway, Massachusetts. National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.
Bottom right: USDA Forest Service: Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.

Support Facilities

Not eligible
  • Park amenities: visitor centers*, whole park restrooms, picnic pavilions, campgrounds, ball fields, etc.
  • Play areas, spray areas, swimming pools, marinas, etc.
  • School facilities: running tracks, sports fields, bleachers, parking areas, field lighting, etc.

Photos of visitor center, and pavilion.

Visitor centers are not eligible for Recreational Trails Program funds. Visitor centers that relate to scenic or historic highway programs are eligible for Transportation Enhancement funds or for National Scenic Byways Program funds, and may be eligible for Federal Lands Highway Program funds.
Photos: Left: USDA Forest Service: Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.
Right: Picnic pavilion at Silver River State Park, Ocala FL. Photo by Charles Hughes.

Support Facilities

  • Not eligible: Play areas, swimming pools.

Photo of a sign for a play area.
Seneca Lake State Park, near Seneca Falls NY, April 4, 2010

Photo Courtesy of Joan Martin, Cortland NY
Disclosure: Sister of the Presenter.

Questions, Comments, etc.

Happy Trails

Horse... Surface Transportation? You bet it is! Christopher B Douwes
Community Planner
Transportation Alternatives Program
Recreational Trails Program
Federal Highway Administration
FHWA HEPH-10 Rm E74-474
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington DC 20590-0001
Phone: 202-366-5013; Fax: 202-366-3409
www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/
www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/transportation_enhancements/

Photo of Christopher Douwes (Session Presenter), Trails and Enhancements Program Manager, Federal Highway Administration, at the Southeastern Equestrian Trails Conference, July 10, 2009.

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Updated: 07/22/2014
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