filed under: maintenance best practices


A Call for Expanding Trails Research

Trails research can help support trail management decision-making and funding by providing objective, quantitative information describing trail users, their numbers and demographics, preferences, and economic expenditures.

by Jeffrey Marion, Ph.D., Federal Scientist, U.S. Geological Survey

Trails research can help support trail management decision-making and funding by providing objective, quantitative information describing trail users, their numbers and demographics, preferences, and economic expenditures. Sometimes knowledge of trail-related use, demand, and expenditures can make or break decisions regarding the funding of new trails and related facilities. While not common, these types of studies are occasionally conducted and used for these purposes. Less common are studies oriented to examining or improving trail sustainability, including various types of trail resource surveys. This handout focuses on these last two issues, though the conclusions point to a need for all types of trails research.

Published July 2022

About the Author

Jeff Marion is a Federal Scientist with the US Geological Survey, and is based out of Virginia Tech as an Adjunct Professor. His research specialty is Recreation Ecology, in which he investigates the environmental impacts of visitor use in protected natural areas, primarily national parks. His research has focused on visitor impacts to trails and campsites and the development of sustainable “Best Management Practices.” He was a founding member of the Leave No Trace Board of Directors, chaired the committee that guided development of the Leave No Trace principles and practices, and authored the LNT Center’s official book “Leave No Trace in the Outdoors.”

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