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Designing for Nonmotorists

Recreation: Where Engineering and Art Meet

Presented at the FHWA Field Engineers Learning & Development Seminar
April 20, 2010, Dallas, Texas

Christopher Douwes, Trails and Enhancements Program Manager,
Federal Highway Administration


Photo of a group of people attending opening day and dedication of the Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway in Texas.

Photo from the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse
Mineral Wells to Weatherford Rail-Trail, Mineral Wells, TX.
Opening day and dedication of the Mineral Wells to Weatherford Rail Trail.
(Photo: Texas DOT).

Course Overview

Part 4: Off-Road Facilities

  • Recreational Trails
  • Motorized Trails

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Recreational Trails
Control Water!

  • Avoid the Fall Line: Don't let water run down the trail!
  • An accessible trail usually is a sustainable trail.
  • General: <5% to the extent feasible, but...
  • Consider the "half rule":
    • Keep trail slope to less than half of the terrain slope.
    • Keep the running slope under 10% if feasible.
  • Rest intervals needed for accessible trails.

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Trail Slope: Grade Reversals

Grade reversals stop water flowing down the trail.
Drawing: www.imba.com/resources/trail_building/downhill_tips.html
Photo: Trail Construction & Maintenance Notebook (US Forest Service)
www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/publications/fs_publications/07232806/page06.cfm#grad

Photo of a trail / grade reversal. Graphic showing proper grade reversal design.

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Trail Slope: Rolling Grade Dips

Easy way to get water off an existing trail.

Photo of a trail / grade dip. Graphic showing proper design of a grade dip.

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

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Cross Slope: Control Water!

Graphic of a pair of legs standing on a trail representing safe cross slope.
  • Maintain sheet flow across the trail.
  PROW ORAR Trail
General: 2% 3% 5%, 3% preferred
Exception: 5%* 5%** 10%**

* At street crossings without stop control or at midblock.
** If needed for drainage on an unpaved surface.

If your ankles start to roll, the tread has too much outslope.
See www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/publications/fs_publications/07232806/page08.cfm.

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Recreational Trails: Cross Slope

Graphics showing differences between bench cuts.

Prefer a "full bench cut" over a "half bench" cut.

  • Full bench
    • Holds its shape.
  • Half bench
    • Easier to construct.
    • But it slumps over time.

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

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Trail Cross Slope: Sheet Flow

Sheet Flow Example

Graphic showing runoff accross a trail.


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

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Trail Cross Slope: Sheet Flow

  • Knicks constructed into existing trails will drain puddles from flat areas.
  • A semicircle cut into the tread, about 3 m (10 feet) long and outsloped the center.

Photo and graphic of trail design techniques.

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

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Please Avoid!

Graphic of a water bar.
  • Don't add barriers to trails.
  • Waterbars: To get water off the trail.
    • Very popular. Not very effective.
    • Not accessible. Possibly dangerous.
    • Need ongoing maintenance.
    • If you think you need a waterbar, the trail is in the wrong location.
    • Grade reversals, rolling dips, and knicks function much better.
  • Avoid bollards (see Shared Use Path discussion).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.


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Drainage, Wetlands

Photo of a person in a wheelchair on a trail bridge.
  • Keep drainage as natural as possible.
  • Avoid wetlands to the extent feasible.
  • From Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook:
  • Trails in Wet Areas
  • Geosynthetics, Rock Underdrains,
  • Turnpikes, Turnpikes Without Ditches,
  • Crossing Streams and Rivers
  • Shallow Stream Fords
  • Culverts, Bridges

See also Wetland Trail Design and Construction.


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

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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: Photo by sister of the Presenter.

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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: National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.
Middle: State Trail Administrators building a boardwalk/bridge at White Clay Creek State Park, Delaware, September 21, 2005.
Right: USDA Forest Service

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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.

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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: National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.
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.

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Support Facilities

  • Facilities must meet accessibility guidelines for buildings and sites.

Photo collage of accessible trail facilities.

Top left: National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.
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.

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Support Facilities

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

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.

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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: Photo by sister of the Presenter.

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Questions, Comments, etc.???

Horse... Surface Transportation? You bet it is! Christopher B Douwes
Trails and Enhancements Program Manager
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/

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Updated: 02/10/2014
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