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All trails interests can learn from equestrian trail book

Author Gene Wood's theme is "We must search for a harmony between humans and our horses on one side and the land on the other."

Recreational Horse Trails in Rural and Wildland Areas: Design, Construction, and Maintenance by Dr. Gene W. Wood, Professor Emeritus, Clemson University

Published in 2007 by Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Clemson University, Clemson, SC and funded by the Federal Highway Administration's Recreational Trails Program in cooperation with the American Horse Council and Clemson University.

Review by Stuart Macdonald, editor, American Trails Magazine

The author states that the purpose of the book is to guide land managers and equestrian trail users in design, construction, and maintenance of horse trails in a manner that harmonizes with the surrounding ecosystem and landscape values. The three goals for trails are to be safe for users, ecologically sound, and economically sustainable.

"My deepest hope is that this book will be a significant contribution to efforts to preserve recreational horse trails as a cultural heritage in a natural heritage setting."
—Gene W. Wood"


This theme of creating sustainable trails that are sensitive to the environment and habitats through which they pass runs throughout the book. In the opening chapter the author acknowledges that "Among nonmotorized uses of trails, recreational horse use if the most frequently criticized for ecosystem damage." His goal is for trail planners and activists to become proficient in natural ecosystem components and processes. To this end the first chapter is not about trail planning, or design, but about soils, watersheds, and habitats.

Whatever our specific trail activities and interests, we are all liable for criticism for impacting and degrading the environment. The mission of American Trails is to provide more tools for trail supporters to learn the best practices as well as the benefits of trails. Working together, we can create a legacy of trails that support the long-term goal of planning, building and managing better trails.

The book goes into detail on all the major topics of trail work, including design, structures, facilities, with an emphasis on horse-specific issues. Contributing authors from several agencies and organizations provide material on topics such as bridges, Geographic Information Systems, and trail management. Many photos and graphics illustrate the topics.

Table of Contents

1. Trails Embedded in Ecosystems

2. Adaptive Management Concepts for Trail Systems

3. Trail Design

4. Documentary Materials for Planning and Management

5. Trail Tools, Materials, and Mechanized Equipment

6. Trails Construction and Maintenance

7. Bridges

8. Trail Monitoring

9. Trailheads and Campgrounds

An additional section titled "Ecosystem Examples" provides case studies from five different parts of the country. Each of these trail system analyses covers ecosystem issues, trail use management, and specific problems and solutions.

Finally, a group of appendices provide information on several more topics which will be useful for those looking for more details. These include:

A. GIS Technology and its Potential Applications in Trails Work

B. Draft and Pack Stock use in Trail Management

C. Amounts and Distribution of Recreational Horse Trails on Federal and State Lands

D. The Clemson Four-Horse Tie Stall

E. Soil Taxonomy Table

F. Land Managers' Expectations for Trail Horse and Horseman Performance

G. Glossary of General Trail Terms

Recreational Horse Trails in Rural and Wildland Areas is available from the American Trails Online Bookstore.

For more about Gene Wood, see an article from Clemson University: Author believes horses and natural resources can coexist.

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