filed under: maintenance best practices

Assessing and Understanding Trail Degradation

Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area

This report describes results from a comprehensive assessment of resource conditions on a large (24%) sample of the trail system within Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area (BSF).

by National Park Service

BISO Final Trail Report Photos

Components include research to develop state-of-knowledge trail impact assessment and monitoring methods, application of survey methods to BSF trails, analysis and summary of results, and recommendations for trail management decision making and future monitoring. Findings reveal a trail system with some substantial degradation, particularly soil erosion, which additionally threatens water quality in areas adjacent to streams and rivers. Factors that contribute to or influence these problems are analyzed and described. Principal among these are trail design factors (trail topographic position, soil texture, grade and slope alignment angle), use-related factors (type and amount of use), and maintenance factors (water drainage). Recommendations are offered to assist managers in improving the sustainability of the trails system to accommodate visitation while enhancing natural resource protection.

Published February 2006

About the Author

The National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 and today manages over 390 units found in all 50 states and some of the U.S. territories. NPS supports and operates trails in three interlocking arenas: trails in parks, technical assistance to States and communities, and administration of much of the National Trails System.

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