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Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads and Campgrounds--Continued

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Chapter 9--Designing Camp and Picnic Units--Continued

Horse Areas

A horse area must provide a way to confine horses and mules. At camp units with vehicle access, the three main options for securing an animal overnight are to:

  • Tie it to the horse trailer.
  • Tie it to a highline.
  • Place it in a corral.

Meet with local riders and determine their preferences. If opinions are mixed, provide options-- corrals in some units and highlines in others. Accommodate stock tied to trailers in all units because stock usually have to be tied to a trailer when preparing for a ride. If corrals are made of portable panels with temporary posts, install a hitch rail nearby where stock can be tied (figure 9-9). Hitch rails are much sturdier and safer for tying stock than portable corral panels.

Stock generally are not tied to hitch rails for very long. Arenas and round pens are used for exercising and training stock, not for confining them. For more information about confinement and staging areas, see Chapter 10--Securing Horses and Mules and Chapter 8--Designing Roads and Parking Areas.

Photo of a camp area with a portable corral, hitch rail, picnic table, and a fire ring.
Figure 9-9--Unless they have permanent posts, portable corrals
are not strong enough to be used for tying stock. A separate hitch
rail is much sturdier and safer.

Camp Units

The best camp units are designed in the field to take advantage of the individual site's conditions.

Place living areas, horse areas, and tent pads in natural openings to minimize removal of vegetation and make each camp unit unique. Locate the living area adjacent to the back-in or pullthrough parking pad (figure 9-10), or detach the living area from the parking pad (figure 9-11). If the living area is detached, a 3- to 4-foot- (0.9- to 1.2-meter-) wide pathway can connect the living area to the parking pad. Ideally, the horse area is adjacent to the parking pad, making it easy for equestrians to reach their trailer, where they store feed and equipment.

Photo of a horse trailer next to a camp living area.
Figure 9-10--This camp unit has an attached living
area adjacent to the parking pad.

Photo of a tent placed a short distance form the parking pad.
Figure 9-11--This detached living area is a
short distance from the parking pad.

Most camp units include site furnishings, such as a picnic table, a grill, and a fire ring. Place these amenities at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) away from the edge of living areas and from each other. If space allows, place them 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 meters) from the edge and from each other. Pedestal grills that rotate require at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) of clearance on all four sides, and 5 feet (1.5 meters) of clearance is preferred. Stationary grills require 4 feet of clearance in front, and 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 meters) is preferred. Separate picnic tables by 5 to 7 feet also. Figure 9-12 shows a living area layout. Figure 9-13 shows a camp unit with a low level of development, and figure 9-14 shows a camp unit with a high level of development.

Drawing of the set up and dimensions of a double-party living area. In the drawing the text reads, 21 ft-6 in, 16 ft, 4 ft, 5 ft-6 in, 30 ft, 16 ft, 5 ft, Pedestal grills, Picnic tables, Suitable surface material, and Fire ring.
Figure 9-12--The living area for a double-party camp unit. The suggested dimensions
are minimums. In some situations, space may allow a larger living area.

Photo of a camp unit with a parking pad, picnic table, and corral.
Figure 9-13--This camp unit has a low level of development that
meets the basic needs of campers and their stock. Water for stock
is located a short distance away.

Photo of a camp unit with a pen that has two horses in it.
Figure 9-14--This camp unit features many conveniences
suitable for a recreation site with a high level of development.
--Courtesy of Janet Grove.

Provide tent pads that are at least 14 by 16 feet (4.3 by 4.9 meters). Tent pads consist of a separate unit that may be attached to a living area. Place tent pads near the camp living area in a single-party camp unit. In a group camp, locate them around the parking area perimeter. This placement makes it easier for riders to monitor stock tied to trailers.

Sizes of Camp Units

The most common camp unit for riders is the single-party camp unit; other options include double-party camp units, several-party camp units, and group camps. Visit with riders to determine the types they prefer. Provide a variety of camp units to meet varying needs.

Single-Party Camp Units

Many equestrian campers prefer a single-party camp unit. Generally, a single-party camp unit accommodates no more than five people, a towing vehicle, and a four-horse trailer. Provide a living area that is about 550 square feet (51 square meters), a tent pad, and a horse area for two animals. If campers have four animals, two animals will have to be tied to the trailer. Figure 9-15 shows concepts for singleparty units.

Drawings of different variations of a single-party camp unit. In the drawings the text reads, (A) Back-in Parking Pad, (B) Pullthrough Parking Pad, Living area, Tent pad, Horse area, and Wheel stop.
Figure 9-15--Single-party camp units.

Double-Party Camp Units

Riders who want to camp with fellow riders appreciate double-party camp units. Back-in or pullthrough parking pads can be adapted for use in double-unit parking pads. One concept merges two back-in parking pads with a total width of 56 feet (17.1 meters). A pullthrough parking pad will need to be extended 55 or 78 feet (16.8 or 23.8 meters). Extended pullthrough parking pads have a disadvantage--the towing vehicle parked in the rear cannot be moved forward until the front trailer is moved. Backing the rear vehicle is an option, but some drivers are not comfortable doing so. A widened pullthrough parking pad allows the rear vehicle to be driven around the other parked vehicle. To widen the parking pad, add 10 feet (3 meters), for a total width of 38 feet (11.6 meters). Provide a living area of about 700 square feet (65 square meters), two tent pads, and areas for four animals. Figure 9-16 shows concepts for double-party equestrian camp units.

Consider having attendants or hosts who can monitor the operation of the campground. The most effective attendants are those familiar with the special needs of stock and riders. Attendants and their stock should be provided a double-party camp unit with a horse area.

Drawing of different types of double-party camp units. In the drawings the text reads, (A) Double Back-in Parking Pad, (B) Double Pullthrough Parking Pad, Horse area, Tent pads, Living area, and Wheel stop.
Figure 9-16--Double-party camp units.

Several-Party Camp Units

Campsites designed for three to four parties are highly favored by riders. Parking options include extra-long or extra-wide pullthrough parking pads (figure 9-17A and B). The extra length--55 or 78 feet (16.8 to 23.8 meters) per vehicle--allows three to four vehicles to park one behind the other. Widen pullthrough parking pads to 38 feet (11.6 meters) to accommodate parking on the outside, and leave the inside open as a travel lane. The landscape island insulates tied stock from dangers on the main road. Install a sign at each unit clarifying that it is for several parties.

Another several-party concept has a terminal loop with three to four back-in parking pads (figure 9-17C). A terminal loop is used only by the campers in the several-party campsite. Make the loop oval rather than a perfect circle. An oval loop allows campers to more easily pull forward and back into parking spaces. Another concept uses three or four back-in parking pads adjacent to each other. The space needs to be 84 feet (25.6 meters) wide for three parking pads and 112 feet (34.1 meters) wide for four. The parking layout may not be clear to drivers. Wheel stops placed 2 feet (0.6 meter) from the end of each parking pad can help mark the spaces.

Drawings of several party camp units. In the drawings the text reads, (A) Triple Back-in Parking Pad, (B) Triple Pullthrough Parking Pad, (C) Seperate Back-in Parking Pad, Horse area, Tent pads, Living area, Wheel stope, Main loop road, and Sign: "SEVERAL-PARTY CAMP UNIT".
Figure 9-17--Several-party camp units. Each example is sized
for three vehicles with horse trailers.

An appropriate living area for several parties includes a shared space of about 950 square feet (88.3 square meters) where the campers gather to prepare meals and socialize. Living areas for several parties should be centrally located in the camp unit (figure 9-17C). Provide a separate tent pad and horse area for each party. This allows privacy for sleeping and separates the stock.

Group Camps

At group camps, include a group gathering area for eating and socializing. Furnishings at group gathering areas may include picnic tables, group-sized pedestal grills, group-sized fire rings, serving tables, and lantern hangers. Equestrians also appreciate a shelter, trash receptacles, and a water hydrant. Group gathering areas may include one large structure (figure 9-18) or several smaller structures (figure 9-19). For more information on sizing structures, see Chapter 7--Planning Recreation Sites. Because the areas may receive heavy traffic, paving may be necessary. The suitability of pavement depends on the level of development.

Drawing of a group gathering area. In the drawing the text reads, Group fire ring, Group pedestal grills, Serving table, Lantern hanger, Picnic tables, Suitable surface material, and Shelter.
Figure 9-18--A group gathering area for a recreation site with
a moderate to high level of development.

Drawing of a group gathering area with three roofs over the picnic areas. In the drawing the text reads, Roof supports, Seating, Group fire ring, Suitable surface material, Water hydrant, Aggregate surface, Group pedestal grills, Trash receptacles, and Picnic tables.
Figure 9-19--A group gathering area under three roofs for a recreation
site with a high level of development.

Picnic Units

When planning picnic units at trailheads, provide different sizes of living areas because the number of riders traveling together varies. The best approach is to incorporate single-party (figure 9-20), doubleparty, and several-party living areas. Because living areas in picnic units also receive heavy foot traffic, consider paving them.

Drawing of a single-party picnic area. In the drawing the text reads, 5 ft-6 in, 10 ft, 4 ft, 3 ft (typical), 16 ft, Pedistal grill, Picnic table, and Suitable surface material.
Figure 9-20--A single-party living area in a picnic unit. The
dimensions are minimums.

Equestrian Site Furnishings

Common recreation site furnishings include picnic tables, fire rings, grills, lantern hangers--and in group sites, serving tables. The best furnishings require little maintenance, have a long lifespan, are easy to clean, and are difficult for vandals to damage. Furnishings also must be convenient, easy to use, and safe. Avoid items with protruding objects or sharp corners that could injure users. Table 9-2 lists the suitability of site furnishings for living areas.

Table 9-2-Suggested suitability of recreation site furnishings.
Facility Single-, double-, and several-party camp units Single-, double-, and several-party picnic units Group camp gathering areas
Picnic table Usually provided Usually provided Usually provided
Fire ring Usually provided Not usually provided Usually provided
Grill Usually provided Often provided Usually provided
Lantern hanger Often provided Not usually provided Often provided
Serving table Not usually provided Not usually provided Often provided


Picnic and Serving Tables

Many users bring their own grill or stove, but few carry a picnic table. Provide picnic tables in campgrounds and at trailheads where day use is encouraged. Tables are available commercially in wood, metal, concrete, recycled plastic, and plastic-coated expanded metal. Select the table material based on the level of development, climate, and amount of vandalism expected at the site. Serving tables are not a necessity, but groups appreciate the extra space for preparing and serving food (figure 9-21).

Photo of a serving table and picnic tables in a group camp.
Figure 9-21--A serving table is a convenient
amenity at a group camp.

Fire Rings and Grills

Fire rings are essential at camp units because they reduce fire hazards and make maintenance easier. Because evening use is not encouraged at picnic units, fire rings are unnecessary there. Preferred fire ring styles have a hinged base so the cooking grate can be tipped back to clean out the ashes. Many accessible fire rings have an expanded metal barrier around the perimeter to keep campers from leaning against the hot surface.

Grills are needed in campgrounds and may be installed at day-use trailheads. Pedestal varieties are designed at a level comfortable for most users, and are the most common. The best models have a cooking grate that is hinged and can be raised and lowered. Some models include lids to reduce cooking time and to keep food warm. Rotating grills and shelves for utensils are other options.

It is a good idea to equip each equestrian camp unit with both a fire ring and a grill to meet all cooking and campfire needs. If funding does not allow both, fire ring and grill combinations (figure 9-22) are available. Combination models with hinged and adjustable cooking grates are best for cooking and are easy to clean.

Photo of a combination fire ring and grill surrounded by concrete.
Figure 9-22--This combination fire ring and grill has multiple
cooking levels and a surface for fires. This accessible style works
well for most users.

Lantern Hangers

Some campers appreciate lantern hangers--they are convenient and protect trees from damage. The recommended distance from the ground to the lantern hanger is about 80 inches (2,032 millimeters). Because an 80-inch hanger, such as the one shown in figure 9-23, is not accessible, a second hook can be mounted where people in wheelchairs can use it.

Photo of a lantern hanger at a picnic area.
Figure 9-23--For lantern hangers to be accessible, they should
not be more than 48 inches from the ground. This style of lantern
hanger could be adapted by adding a second, lower hook.

Photo of a picnic area surrounded by trees.

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Updated: 4/14/2014
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