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ATV Trail Work on the Allegheny National Forest

The Forest Service performed heavy maintenance and reconstruction of ATV trails using new equipment that is small and narrow in order to keep the finished trail narrow.

By Don Clymer, Allegheny National Forest

The 513,000-acre Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in northwest Pennsylvania, with its 108 miles of ATV trail, is a popular destination for ATV and trail bike riders. The Allegheny, one of 155 National Forests in the U.S., is Pennsylvania's only national forest and is located in Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren counties.

photo: heavy equipment working on a trail

During the summer of 2000, the Forest Service performed heavy maintenance and reconstruction of the ATV trails using new equipment that is small and narrow in order to keep the finished trail narrow. This narrower configuration results in higher levels of rider enjoyment by keeping the trails more challenging and aesthetically pleasing. The work done with this equipment consisted of 5.4 miles of trail relocation and 7.4 miles of trail restoration on the Marienville Bike Trail.

The work of shaping the tread, installing structures, and restoring trail sections was done with mini excavators that are 5.4 feet wide, powered by a three cylinder 33 horsepower diesel engine, and weigh approximately 3.8 tons. Most previous trail work had been done using small bulldozers or skid steer loaders equipped with dozer blades. This was the first time mini excavators have been used on the ANF trail system, and they really proved very quick and efficient. The excavators often used their bucket to loosen up the soil and then the blade to level and move it off to the side. The mini excavators were capable of building new trail at the average rate of 0.4 miles per day.

The mini excavator disturbs much less ground than a dozer or skid steer when installing sediment traps, removing stumps, etc., because its arm reaches out to do the work. This results in less seeding and mulching. The mini excavator also costs less to rent and operate than does a small dozer.

photo: a trail dumper

Four thousand six hundred tons of commercial gravel were placed on various portions of the Marienville Bike Trail to harden up the tread surface. The stone was transported to those sections of trail using mini tracked trail dumpers. The trail dumpers are 5.2 feet wide and powered by a 4 cylinder, 46 horsepower Kubota diesel engine. They weigh 2.3 tons and are capable of hauling 3 tons of stone.

The trail dumpers can be driven with the operator facing either way by reversing the seat, so if there is no room along the trail to turn the dumper around it can be driven in either direction easily. The dumper is operated by a "T" handle which is pushed either forward or backward for direction and speed of travel, and twisted to turn to left or right.

photo: heay equipment on trail

This was also the first time that these trail dumpers have been used on ANF trails. They were found to be very efficient and durable. Some of the "carries" were up to 1.5 miles one way along the trail, and the dumpers made very good time on these long hauls over very rough trails. A three-mile round trip delivering three tons of stone to the work site would take about 40 minutes. Both the mini excavator and trail dumper use rubber tracks, which are a definite advantage over steel-tracked equipment. On rocks and boulders, steel tracks tend to "skate" and slip, while the rubber tracks have good traction.

Kightlinger Excavating of Bradford, PA, provided the equipment and performed the trail work under a contract with the Allegheny National Forest. Funding for this trail improvement work was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources through ATV registration receipts.

ANF personnel were extremely pleased with the mini excavator and dumpers and with the narrow trail corridors that were achieved using this equipment. Comments from trail riders about the new trail sections have been exceptionally complimentary.

If you would like more information on this equipment, contact either Don Clymer or Mark Conn at Allegheny National Forest headquarters at 814-723-5150; E-mail:

photo of ATVs on trail

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