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Evaluation of "Road Oyl" for Trail Stabilization

A technique for stabilizing natural surface trails.

By Doug Marah

"Road Oyl" is the brand name for a resin modified emulsion "formulated from natural forest products," according to the manufacturer. It is claimed to be suitable for environmentally sensitive areas and to have applications for both road and trail surfacing. Road Oyl is made by Soil Stabilization Products of Merced, California. Call 1-800-523-9992 for a brochure.

Background: During the summer of 1992, the Ouray District of the GMUG N.F. began work on a barrier-free access trail at Beaver Lake Campground on the Uncompahgre N.F. The purpose of the trail project was to provide access to all people around the small lake. The terrain is such that grades and sideslopes provided an excellent opportunity to provide access with little excavation and embankment. The project consisted of 2,700' of tread construction, originally 2,110 l.f. of 4' width and 590 l.f. of 3' width. The final configuration was 4' wide throughout. Very minimal clearing was required. Soils were typical clay/loam mixtures, with high organics in the top 2 inches.

Construction: The work on the project was accomplished by the district force account crew, supervised by Lew French, Ouray District Recreation Staff. The district rented a small John Deere tractor with loader, used ATV's with trailers and a 6x6 dump bed ATV to haul surfacing and spread Road Oyl. They also rented a small tandem wheel vibratory compactor during Road Oyl application.

Excavation was accomplished to mineral soil by traditional hand crew methods: the trail bed was excavated and duff and vegetation was wasted. A 4" layer of 3/4" minus aggregate surfacing was placed on the trail bed. Surface was smoothed, with a 2% maximum outslope. Road Oyl was placed on the surfacing to provide a hardened running surface for wheel chairs, etc.

Application: Road Oyl was applied in several ways to try and find the best and most efficient method. The goal was to apply the Road Oyl to accomplish 3/4"-1" penetration into the aggregate. The most successful approach was to first thoroughly wet an area of given length, then apply the Road Oyl undiluted, waiting until the surface was no longer "tacky," then rolling with the compactor. The Road Oyl was applied with an ATV mounted with a 25 gallon tank and 4' boom sprayer designed for spraying weeds. Our target application was 0.7 gallons per square foot. Since the sprayer was not set up with a metering pump, we calculated the square footage which could be covered per tank of Road Oyl, marked that area on the ground, and continued spraying until empty. While this may seem primitive, it was effective. The area was rolled 3-4 times, allowed to harden for a period of time, and rolled again.

Conclusion: The constraints of width and, therefore, machinery, provided some very interesting problems. Our process of applying the Road Oyl could have been much more successful had we been able to blade process and mix the Road Oyl with the aggregate. In addition, the aggregate was placed using ATV's with trailers. Our construction process was to work away from our stockpile area. This meant countless trips across the previously placed aggregate. While the ATVs no doubt contributed to compaction, the small wheels of the trailers compacted ruts down the tread, significantly segregating aggregate from fines outside the ruts. These areas were difficult to get a mix of Road Oyl and fines for good binding and durability, since we had no reasonable way of picking up the material and relaying.

One method of application which was discussed but not tried was to mix with a 4' rototiller attachment to the tractor. This might have provided the mixing that was needed. Sand was applied with additional Road Oyl treatment, to limited areas of high segregation after initial Road Oyl application. This approach seemed to provide a more durable surface; however, it greatly increased the cost.

The main application of Road Oyl was done in early September while the temperature was high enough to provide good curing. However, touch-up work was done in late September, during which time the night time temperatures were consistently around freezing. During this time the Road Oyl was extremely slow in drying or setting up. During the relative warmth of the afternoon, the Road Oyl would become tacky again. We elected to postpone any further applications until next June.

As stated before, we had areas of significant segregation of aggregate. These areas did not provide results which had been hoped for. Whether the average final depth of penetration (approximately 1/2") provides a long term adequate surface is yet to be seen. The 4" lift of aggregate should provide the desired barrier-free access level even if the Road Oyl does not provide a long term hardened surface.

Doug Marah can be contacted at U. S. Forest Service, 2250 HWY 50, Delta CO 81416 (303) 874-7691.

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