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Kansas State Trails Plan 2008

Download the complete Kansas State Trails Plan 2008 (pdf 4.4 mb)

By Recreation Resources Research Services - Sid Stevenson, Ph.D.
Funding provided by the Division of State Parks, KS Department of Wildlife and Parks

Map of KansasEXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The general intent of the 2008 version of Kansas State Trails Plan is that the document will serve as the primary planning resource to guide suppliers of trail use recreation opportunities, their partners and other related decision makers in their efforts provide the public with high quality and beneficial trail-use experiences.

The KS State Trails Plan is also intended to bring Kansas into full compliance with the intent of statewide planning requirements outlined in the Recreational Trails Program, administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is administered in Kansas by the Department of Wildlife and Parks, Division of State Parks.

The RTP utilizes federal transportation funds to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses. The RTP funds are apportioned back to states from motor fuel excise taxes collected from non-highway recreational fuel use: such as that used by a variety of off-highway recreation vehicles.

This plan was prepared with funding provided by the Division of State Parks, KS Department of Wildlife and Parks.

The plan examines both continuing and emerging issues within the following general categories and identifies areas worthy of special focus over the next 5 years:

  • Planning issues - the information and resources that need to be available to better coordinate, and guide the optimal allocation of resources
  • Operational issues - the on-the-ground design and maintenance details that enhance trail experiences

Justification

Support for the saliency of the issues identified and subsequent recommendations is provided from multiple sources, including: (1) a review of the existing KS State Trails Plan - 03, and an analysis of the actions taken to date, by issue; (2) a review of other state trails plans, trail-related studies, reports and policies at various levels of government; (3) a detailed examination of the current inventory of the state's trails, and (4) data from two primary studies conducted to fill in knowledge gaps and to reinforce and clarify current opinion: (4a) three facilitated focus groups, and (4b) a Delphi study of trail enthusiasts, identified by their participation in the KS Built Environment and Trails Summit.

Items (3) and (4) from the preceding list provided special opportunities for input for this iteration of the state's trails plan. (3) The statewide trail inventory and database was published as the KS Rec-Finder in August, 2007. Reports, not before available, summarize the breadth and diversity of the state's trails. (4)

The KS Built Environment and Trails Summit (October, 2007) brought together multiple state agencies and several foundations and professional associations as co-sponsors and hosted over 150 trail enthusiasts as delegates in a 2-day, focused seminar on trail related issues. This focused group was queried for its unique and valued perspective on trail issues.

Items (3) and (4) from the preceding list provided special opportunities for input for this iteration of the state's trails plan. (3) The statewide trail inventory and database was published as the KS Rec-Finder in August, 2007. Reports, not before available, summarize the breadth and diversity of the state's trails. (4)

The KS Built Environment and Trails Summit (October, 2007) brought together multiple state agencies and several foundations and professional associations as co-sponsors and hosted over 150 trail enthusiasts as delegates in a 2-day, focused seminar on trail related issues. This focused group was queried for its unique and valued perspective on trail issues.

Inventory Summary

The publication of the statewide trail inventory in August of 2007 provides a detailed summary of the number and diversity of the trails in the state. 665 trails were included in the initial summary. An analysis in this document examines the subcategories.

KEY TRAIL ISSUES: The following issues have been identified for special focus during the forthcoming planning period.

Category Issue

Planning 1. The responsibilities associated with the general oversight of a diverse, statewide trail system are numerous and specialized and warrant the attention of a dedicated professional.

Planning 2. Trail use data is needed to reinforce professional opinion and expressed user preferences for various trail experiences (e.g. close to home, single vs. shared use, type, surface, and level of challenge).

Planning 3. Trail users and advocates, while highly diverse with respect to interests and perceptions, also share commonalities which must be galvanized for effective trail advocacy.

Planning/Ops 4. All trails, but particularly shared use trails would benefit from improved categorical definition and the standardization of construction specifications.

Planning/Ops 5. How to enhance the physical accessibility of pedestrian routes without compromising resources available to other trail uses.

Operations 6. The safety of trail users shall be a focus of design as well as maintenance efforts.

Planning 7. Policies regarding the use of navigable river corridors by motorized vehicles is inconsistent by jurisdiction.

Planning 8. Enhanced marketing of the state's trails is needed

Continuing Trail Issues: The following issues, not included above, have been identified for continuing focus, as most were identified in prior State plans and continue in their relevancy:

Operations 9. Trail maintenance and enhancement of existing trails shall continue to be given at least equal consideration with the construction of new trails.

Planning/Ops 10. The importance of "close to home" trail experiences increases with the focus on health, as well as the cost of fuel.

Planning 11. Additional trails and areas for motorized recreation are high user preferences

Planning 12. Historic trails are an important element in the state's trail system but many segments are inaccessible to the public

Planning 13. Help is needed to guide when single use trails should be constructed instead of shared use trails in rural areas.

Planning 14. Resources are lacking to convert the majority of abandoned rail corridors to trails.

Planning 15. Kansas water trails are underutilized.

Recommended Actions by Issue

Issue: 1. The responsibilities associated with the general oversight of a diverse, statewide trail system are numerous and specialized, and warrant the attention of a dedicated professional.

Action 1.a Kansas needs to create a new position, the State Trails Coordinator. This position should be created by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, or in conjunction with other state agencies; with the primary responsibilities (75%) or higher to include but not be limited to: trail grant management, statewide trail planning, trail project management, trail advocacy, the assumption of a leadership role in the state's trails conference; and the coordination of technical assistance, including the compilation and distribution of best management practices.

It should be noted that the great majority of the following issues require human capital in order to be satisfactorily addressed; often highly correlated with the anticipated skills possessed by the coordinator.

Action 1.a.1 Funding to help support a trail coordinator's position should be above and beyond the agency's current allocation; reflecting the statewide benefit of the position. Funding of the position may require trail use or vehicle registration fees, and various payment options should be explored.

Issue: 2. Trail use data is needed to reinforce professional opinion and expressed user preferences for various trail experiences (e.g. close to home, single vs. shared use, type, surface, and level of challenge).

Action 2.a Accurate use statistics need to be compiled by trail type, location and similar key variables in order to validate stated and perceived user preferences. These statistics need to be compiled by observation/count methodologies cross referenced with trail features. (Project scoring for grant awards and general prioritization of effort and resource allocation requires reliable level of use data so that the trail types with the highest use levels are rewarded)

The data should answer the following questions:

What are the characteristics of the trails with higher use? Is it location, or amenities, length or surface? When are trails used?

Issue: 3. Trail users and advocates, while highly diverse with respect to interests and perceptions, also share commonalities which must be galvanized for effective trail advocacy.

Action 3.a Recently initiated trail advocacy efforts should continue; with special focus on developing partnerships aimed at improving health and wellness via outdoor activity and generally increasing trail use. Continue regular communication sessions (like the KS Built Environment and Trails Summit) so that diverse trail interests are well represented and the opportunity exists for discussion on salient issues.

3.b Work to gain the highest status and representation possible for a trails advocacy unit (e.g. Governor's Task Force) with representation by key agency, private and political figures, including health officials.

3.c Utilize new partnerships to accumulate research findings that show improved health from trail use; including research on trail design features and act on that research by both incorporating it into planning and broadly disseminating the information.

Issue: 4. All trails, but particularly shared use trails would benefit from improved categorical definition and the standardization of construction specifications

Action 4.a Establish general standards for shared use paths/trails specifications; with variations for expected levels of use.

4.a.1 Reclassify existing shared use paths/trails according to the new standard.

4.a.2 Fund the construction of new or upgraded shared use paths/trails only when the path meets the new criteria.

Issue: 5. How to enhance the physical accessibility of pedestrian routes without compromising resources available to other trail uses?

Action 5.a Develop a process or template similar to the Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG) to provide direction for future accessible trail planning in Kansas.

Action 5.b Existing trails shall be reviewed, reclassified and analyzed relative to their current applicability to the proposed Trail Accessibility Guidelines.

Documentation shall be provided for any conditions of departure.

Action 5.c New and altered pedestrian and walking use trails and trail segments (and associated amenities) of the appropriate class, connected to an accessible trail or trailhead shall be constructed to be in compliance with the Trail Accessibility Guidelines proposed/adopted by the Access Board and/or any adopted State Guidelines.

Issue 6. The safety of trail users shall be a focus of design as well as maintenance efforts.

Action 6.a Enhance the safety of trail users by multiple measures

6.a.1 Incorporate trail design elements to improve safety - maintain and improve trail tread and corridors

6.a.2 Improve warning signage and trail maps

6.a.3 Enforce trail use regulations and communicate trail use ethics via signage and user group pro-activity

6.a.4 Evaluate longer rural trails for limited official vehicular access for evacuation of injured persons.

Issue 7. Policies regarding the use of navigable river corridors by motorized vehicles is inconsistent by jurisdiction.

Action 7a. Best practices recommendations relative to OHV use and environmental stewardship of these corridors need to be developed.

Issue 8. Enhanced Marketing of the state's trails is needed

Action 8a. Capitalize on expanded partnerships to market trails for their multiple benefits.

CONTUING ISSUES

Issue 9. Trail maintenance and enhancement of existing trails shall continue to be given at least equal consideration with the construction of new trails

Action 9.a. Allocation of resources shall support the maintenance of existing trails; reflecting in the scoring of projects.

Action 9.b Enhance the trail experience (where feasible) with the addition of related amenities, including: signage, trash collection, potable water, restrooms, parking and staging areas.

Issue 10. The importance of "close to home" trail experiences increases with the focus on health, as well as the cost of fuel.

Action 10.a Trail projects designed "close to home" shall benefit from improved project scoring.

Issue 11. Additional trails and areas for motorized recreation are high user preferences.

Action 11.a Monitor success of recent motorized trail projects for potential replication.

11.b Facilitate the offering of additional, cost-effective, quality motorized trail experiences

Issue 12. Historic trails are an important element in the state's trail system, but many segments are inaccessible to the public

Action 12.a Reward trail projects focusing on discernable historic trails

Issue 13. Help is needed to guide when single use trails should be constructed instead of shared use trails in rural areas

Action 13.a (see Actions 2.a and 4.a)

Issue 14. Resources are lacking to convert the majority of abandoned rail corridors to trails.

Action 14.a Rails to trails projects meeting desired outcomes like system and community connectivity, "closeness to home", and alternative transportation routes, are desirable, and should continue to be prioritized accordingly in Transportation Enhancement projects.

Issue 15. Kansas water trails are underutilized

Action 15.a Continue to establish and improve launching options and enhance user amenities at launch points.

Download the complete Kansas State Trails Plan 2008 (pdf 4.4 mb)

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