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Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads and Campgrounds

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Appendix D--Trail Proposal and Evaluation Process: Open Space and Trails Program (Pitkin County, CO)

Trails are not as simple as they may appear. Every trail, as a long-term community resource, must be well designed, planned, and constructed in order to best serve the public and meet the goals of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program. Because the County wants each trail to be unique and as well fitted to its site, users, purpose, and goals as possible, the County has created a dynamic trail design and management approval process.

This approval process works with you. It walks you through the design of your trail, reminds you of things you didn't think of, and actually helps you to design good trails. Taking the site, the trail, the users, the purpose of the trail, and the County's goals into account, the process helps you develop a unique trail which is very well suited to all of these. The process helps guide the design and improve the quality of trails while they are still in the conceptual stage--use it as a learning tool and work with it (and the County) to generate high-quality trails. The rewards are excellent community trails which will be used and enjoyed for decades.

How to Propose a New Trail

The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board will apply the outline on the following pages as they examine a trail proposal, prepare specific design (and acquisition, when applicable) recommendations, and adopt a long-term management plan for a proposed new trail. The County will also use this outline as it periodically reviews the management of trails which pre-date the Open Space and Trails Program. If you are proposing a trail project, you need to address all the issues in this outline. The outline exists to help you design your trail and to help the County gather as much information about your trail as needed. By the time you complete the outline, you will know a great deal about how to create a good trail. The outline also makes it easier for you and the County to optimize opportunities whenever possible and to spot and correct problems in the conceptual stage. Every proposed trail will likely have less than optimal factors, and the presence of these will not necessarily affect the approval of your trail. Keep in mind that all of the outline issues have to be considered at some stage in the birth and life of a trail--completing the outline now helps you to think in advance of what you would have to address eventually.

The outline is keyed to the Trail Design Process and Guidelines in Section 1 of this Handbook [Trails Design and Management Handbook]. You should read and apply the contents of Section 1 to the proposed trail before attempting to complete your proposal outline. In order to respond to the questions, you should be familiar with the proposed site of the trail as well as with the basic design and construction techniques presented in Sections 2 and 3 of this Handbook.

In your written proposal, you may use any format you choose as long as you address all the issues in this outline.

The items below are keyed to the Trail Design Process and Guidelines in Section 1. Please refer to that section for the full meaning behind the following questions, then prepare a response for each of these topics (and any other relevant issues) for presentation and adoption by the Open Space and Trails Board and the Pitkin County Commissioners.

In completing your proposal:

  • Be familiar with the site of the trail and with your proposed trail alignment in that site.
  • Review the County's goals for the Open Space and Trails Program given in the Introduction of this Handbook.
  • Refer to Section 1 for trail design guidelines which pertain to the trail. The trail should meet as many of these guidelines as possible.
  • Refer to Section 1 for trail design guidelines which pertain to the trail. The trail should meet as many of these guidelines as possible.

Your responses to the questions posed in the outline can and should refer back to specific sections of this Handbook when appropriate.

  1. General Information

    1. Briefly describe the location of the trail and why a trail is desirable here. Include the purpose of the trail (destination trail, recreational trail, connector trail). If the trail has more than one purpose, explain each in the order of importance. (See Section 1 Parts A and B).

    2. Who are the expected users? In broad terms, how much use from each user type can be expected now and in the future? (See Section 1 Part C).

    3. Is the trail clearly suited for some users at the exclusion of others (and if so, who)? Can use of this trail be provided for the physically challenged? (See Section 1 Part C).

    4. What user conflicts can be expected and how does the trail design work to mitigate or avoid them? What trail user groups are interested in this trail? (See Section 1 Part C).

    5. Which trail type should this trail be (hard surface multiple use, crusher fines, or natural surface), and why is this the best choice? (See Section 1 Part D).

  2. Mapping
    A site map is required for all trails:

    1. Prepare a 24" x 36" site map, using a USGS 1:24,000 series topographic map or a superior topographic map as the base, enlarged to at least 1"=300' scale, that approximately depicts the "parent" property parcel as well as the surrounding 200-300' perimeter of adjoining lands, and the location of the present or proposed trail. If necessary, use multiple 24" x 36" sheets. Also indicate the approximate property lines of all adjoining property parcels within that 200-300' perimeter, and prepare a listing of their owners' names and addresses, keyed to the map.

    2. Transcribe to the site map, and prepare a map key of the applicable "Areas& Activities of Local and State Interest" (more commonly known as the "1041 Hazards") from the following list (note in the map key those Hazards or Areas which are not applicable to the site):

      • Geologic Hazards
        • Soils
        • Avalanche Hazard
        • Debris Flows
        • Rockfall
      • Slopes
      • Wildfire Hazard
      • Wildlife Habitat
      • Floodplain
      • Scenic Overlay
      • Historic & Archaeological Resources
      • Areas Around Key Facilities

    1. On the mapped trail alignment, note the locations of major structures such as bridges, underpasses, large cuts or fills, large retaining walls, trailheads, etc. Also (if known), locate any easements, utilities, or agricultural parcels that are in or adjoin the alignment.

  3. Trail Corridor Guidelines
    Items in this part are keyed to Section 1 Part E:

    1. Briefly describe the desirable and undesirable features of the proposed trail corridor. Explain what can be done to mitigate any undesirable features and why any undesirable features should be deemed acceptable. (See Section 1 Part E).

    2. Does the proposed corridor use, preserve, or enhance a natural corridor or one with many desirable open space values? (See Section 1 Part E).

    3. What present or future linkages or access would this trail create or preserve? If this is an urban or suburban trail, would it function as a part of an alternate transportation web? What factors will contribute to increased or decreased use of the trail?

    4. Are any spur trails proposed that would increase access, and if so, where? Does the proposed trail create possibilities for loops and varied trips?

    5. What are the potential impacts of the projected levels of trail use (both now and in the future) on adjoining private property owners, agricultural operations, public lands, and communities?

    6. If the proposed alignment follows property lines, highway rights-of-way, utility corridors, or other man-made corridors, what are the positive and negative features of this alignment? In accordance with the guidelines in Section 1 Part F, describe how alignments, trailside improvements, and design solutions can improve the users’ trail and open space experience in a less than optimal corridor.

    7. If land has not already been obtained, is it or will it be possible to follow the corridor selection process as described in Section 1 Part G? If not, what corridor planning measures can be taken to ensure that the best possible corridor is obtained? (See Section 1 Part G).

  4. Existing Trail Conditions Audit
    If this is an entirely new trail, the questions in this part can be skipped. Otherwise, respond to each of the following questions:

    1. What are the present modes of trail use (whether authorized or not)?

    2. What is the present intensity of trail use?

    3. What, if any, are the safety concerns associated with present use?

    4. Does this trail provide a linkage with existing trails, or provide access to public lands?Does this trail form a loop by itself or by linking other trails?

    5. Is present trail use considered unauthorized trespass by the owner?

    6. Is the present owner flexible about relocating the trail on the property?

    7. What are the present impacts on adjoining property owners?

    8. Describe the impacts of present trail use on the following features of this property:

      • Ecological/Wildlife
      • Cultural/Historical
      • Agricultural
      • Scenic

  5. General Trail and Corridor Design
    Items in this part are keyed to Section 1 Part H:

    1. What design features are planned that will help the trail achieve the "fit" and economy of design described in Section 1 Part H? Please include specifics on how the trail will achieve "fit", respect and appreciation of land, freedom from design contradictions, simple but effective solutions, a sense of belonging on its site, and a fresh user experience each time.

    2. Briefly describe some of the ways in which a "limited unpredictability" will be built into the trail (see Section 1 Part H). Also describe some design solutions by which "the master-planned feel" will be lessened without being inconsistent in design or adding contrived features or treatments.

    3. What aspects of the trail will make it enjoyable and fun to use?

  6. Relationship Between Trail and Site
    Items in this part are keyed to Section 1 Part I:

    1. Is the site inherently interesting? If so, briefly describe why. If not, how can the trail still create the best experience from it, and would another alignment create a more interesting site?

    2. Describe the sequence of ecosystems and environments the trail will pass through and how this will create an interesting experience for the user.

    3. Will the trail follow landforms and traverse fall lines in such a way that the trail seems to belong there? If not, why? How will the trail be designed and constructed in an unobtrusive way such that the trail seems like it has always been there?

    4. How will trail structures blend with the landscape?

    5. Describe the site preservation and revegetation techniques that will be used to keep and maintain trailside vegetation.

    6. What site features will be highlighted, and how will this be done?

    7. What "1041" hazards are present and how will they be handled? (see list of "1041" hazards in Section 1 Part I).

    8. Could the alignment disturb sensitive environments such as wetlands, migration routes, and critical wildlife habitat? Are there any endangered plants or animals which might be disturbed by the trail or its users? If so, how? If the trail could disturb these features, explain why this disturbance is acceptable. Could any problems identified above be resolved through mitigation measures on the present or applicant-proposed alignment? Also indicate any other possible alignments which could avoid the sensitive areas.

    9. What are the impacts of the trail and trail corridor on adjacent landowners?

    10. If the trail passes through an agricultural parcel, how might agricultural uses be impacted? How will any impacts be minimized or mitigated?

    11. What are the possible impacts of adjacent landowners and agricultural operations on trail users and open space values?

    12. If site repair is to be used in any part of the trail corridor, explain what will be done and how this will blend with the remainder of the site and trail.

    13. Describe the width of the trail corridor and how the width changes to accommodate various features. Where the corridor is narrow, explain how the trail can fit in the corridor. Where on the map is the recommended final easement location?

    14. Are there alternate alignments which could eliminate or mitigate any problems revealed elsewhere in this proposal? If so, describe how and map them, naming and keying the alternate alignments. If the alternate alignments create other problems, please discuss why the proposed alignment is the best option.

  7. Safety and Human Aspects
    Items in this part are keyed to Section 1 Part J:

    1. In what ways will safety be designed into the trail?

    2. What are the widths of the trail and other design features for accommodating the expected number of users?

    3. Are there any expected violations of County standards on curve radii, grades, sight lines, and other safety features? If so, can these situations be eliminated with another alignment? If not, how can unavoidable situations be made as safe as possible?

    4. If the trail crosses any driveways, streets, roads, highways, or other trafficways, how will the crossing be handled? If the crossing is not grade-separated, can another alignment be found or created which is grade-separated (see Section 1 Part J).

    5. How will the privacy of neighbors along the trail corridor be preserved?

    6. If this trail is to be used in the winter, what features will be incorporated for winter use?

  8. Construction
    Items in this part are keyed to Section 1 Part K:

    1. Who will build the trail? Who should have maintenance responsibility for this project? (See Section 1 Part K).

    2. Of the construction standards given in Sections 2 and 3 for your trail type (trailheads, signs, fencing, bridges, underpasses, intersections, retaining walls, railings, revegetation, site restoration, special features for particular user groups, drainage issues, and the like), list by name all that are applicable to this trail. For major, labor intensive, expensive, or unusual construction items, please give additional information which can be used as the basis for rough cost analysis--for example, give the number of and approximate lengths of bridges, approximate lengths and heights of retaining walls, trailhead requirements, etc. Please give as much detail as you can.

    3. Given snow, snowmelt, wildlife zones, revegetation requirements, and other site conditions, during what months of the year could the trail be constructed?

    4. Are any parts of the trail difficult to build because of a fragile or difficult site, access problems, low clearance, buried and overhead utilities, and the like? If so, how can these parts of the trail be built?

    5. Will construction of the trail require a special short-term construction easement that is wider than the final trail easement? If so, what is the recommended construction easement location?

    6. What features will give the trail the maximum lifespan as described in the guidelines for this trail type?

  9. Maintenance
    Items in this part are keyed to Section 1 Part L:

    1. Who should have maintenance responsibility for this project?

    2. What aspects of the design give the trail minimum maintenance requirements?

    3. Estimate the expected maintenance requirements for the trail at 4-6 months, 1 year, 5 years, and 20 years.

    4. Will arrangements be made with the trail contractors, maintenance group, management group, and other involved groups for required formal design and maintenance reviews at 4-6 months and one year after completion?

    5. What is the proposed schedule for maintenance inspections (see Section 1 Part L)

  10. Stewardship
    Items in this part are keyed to Section 1 Part M:

    1. Should the trail fall under County jurisdiction and enforcement of Open Space and Trails Rules? If so, should any special rules or exceptions apply to this trail? If not, who will have jurisdiction, and what rules will apply?

    2. Describe the trail management plan which should be adopted. If there are any difficult management issues (issues which are likely to be a serious problem or an area of serious dispute), what are they and how might the issues be addressed?

    3. Who should be accountable for implementation of the management plan? Are there potential partners, such as organized user groups, or other governmental agencies, who can assist in the management of this trail and, if so, in what ways?

    4. If the trail passes through sensitive wildlife zones, will seasonal trail closure be necessary to protect wildlife? If so, how should this closure be handled?

    5. How should this trail be promoted, if at all, and by whom?

    6. Do all aspects of the proposed trail and trail corridor work within the Open Space and Trails Program General Objectives and Policies? If not, describe how it doesn't and why an exception should be made.

--Excerpted from Trails Design and Management Handbook (Parker 1994). Courtesy of the author. Used with permission of Pitkin County, CO, Open Space and Trails Program.

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