Best Practices in Trail Maintenance

A Manual by the Ohio River Greenway

This manual is intended for practical use by trail maintenance managers. It will also be useful for policy makers who are tasked with anticipating and planning for maintenance budget and personnel needs. The recommendations included in this manual were chosen, in part, to facilitate widespread adoption by other trail operators. They are cost-effective solutions that require minimal technological or financial commitments.

by Purdue University, College of Engineering

The first step to creating a maintenance program is to understand current and anticipated needs and assess the local capacity to meet them. Currently, maintenance of the Ohio River Greenway is handled by various departments within each of the three communities. The table below summarizes the current approach to maintenance. This information was gathered through interviews with officials from the three Ohio River Greenway communities.

The interviews revealed common concerns. For example, none of the communities currently uses a mobile application to capture trail user concerns, although there is expressed interest in doing so in the future. Many robust models exist currently: one well-designed example is the Louisville Mobile “suite” of apps, created by Ohio River neighbor Louisville, KY, which includes user feedback options for the 100-mile Louisville Loop multi-use path. Additionally, all three communities anticipate a range of repairs to the asphalt and concrete trailways and bridge decks in the near future, and are concerned with associated costs.

Taking or updating an inventory of fixed assets is another important step in managing maintenance planning. The Ohio River Greenway inventory was created using GISCloud, a mapping software, to list and map its fixed assets. The major challenge in creating an inventory is to define its scope: determining the relevant distance from the trailway edge, whether to count trees and other natural features, whether and how to note the presence of above or below ground fiber optic and power lines, what trail uses are allowed, and so on. If the trail is in an urban setting, it might be useful to inventory trail crossings, noting elements such as crossing width and type, signage and pedestrian signals, and ADA accessibility for the ramp and grade. There are numerous, customizable inventory templates available online, and the Ohio River Greenway inventory template is included in Appendix C of this document.

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