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Building a Permeable, Low Maintenance Recreational Trail Along a Shoreline

In 2009, the city of The Colony planned to build a recreational trail (10 foot-wide, 3.5 mile pathway) that would run along the lake’s shoreline, contouring to its natural shape and providing residents with a picturesque route for outdoor activities such as walking, jogging, and cycling. The city selected the GEOWEB® Soil Stabilization System due to its flexibility to conform to curves, surface permeability, and low maintenance design.

by Presto Geosystems

Given the high water table and frequent changes in the lake level, there was a possibility of uplift beneath the structure, which was a cause for concern. However, with appropriate planning and the utilization of the GEOWEB System’s patented ATRA® accessories, the concern was successfully mitigated.

During installation, a series of polyester tendons were threaded through the GEOWEB panel i-slots and anchored multiple times per panel using ATRA® Anchors. Then the cells were infilled with a common trail-building material, decomposed granite. The tendons, in conjunction with the final infill material, prevent the GEOWEB system from lifting and deforming due to groundwater pressures.

The well-graded, decomposed granite was chosen as the infill material because it was readily available in the area, is aesthetically pleasing, and promotes good drainage.

Once the GEOWEB panels were installed, the infill was placed with a standard frontend loader, then raked by hand to ensure all cells were properly filled. The material was also placed along the outside of the panels as needed to match the final grade and meet up with the unexcavated areas. A small, smooth-barreled roller compactor finished the job and created a firm, yet permeable surface.

The GEOWEB recreational trail project was completed in the summer of 2010 and resulted in a clean, well-delineated, natural-looking trail that people continue to enjoy today.

GEOWEB® Geocells for Shoreline Multi-use Trail

The GEOWEB 3D Geocells are made from virgin high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is durable and highly resistant to wear, yet lightweight and flexible. The honeycomb-like network of cells confines infill, providing strength and stabilization to cohesionless soils. The geocells can be infilled with a variety of materials, such as aggregate, concrete, vegetation, and even on-site fill. The GEOWEB system offers long-term stability, permeability, and low environmental impact options for communities.

When installing the GEOWEB System in wet environments with potentially saturated soils, the Presto Geosystems engineering team recommends using the GEOWEB Geocells with tendons and ATRA® Anchors to prevent uplift. However, we encourage you to request a free project evaluation to ensure the success of your project.

For ease of construction, vehicles and equipment can be driven on the GEOWEB panels as soon as they are filled, so you do not have to wait for the entire system to be filled before using it. This can help minimize the impact of construction on the area, since you will not need to create access lanes or clear out excess vegetation on the sides.

If stone infill is preferred for your project, minimal fines, typically less than 10%, are ideal. Avoiding fines in your stone allows the GEOWEB Soil Stabilization System to retain its permeability and prevent clogging.

Recreational trails built with the GEOWEB System are a great example of green infrastructure because they do not disrupt the water cycle or impact the groundwater flow. No additional stormwater infrastructure is needed when the trail surface is permeable, so there is minimal impact on the environment around the trail.

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A Major Flood Event Challenges the GEOWEB System

In September of 2010, just a few months after the GEOWEB trail installation, the city experienced a massive rainfall event resulting in over seven inches of rain in a three-hour period. This amount of rain over such a short period of time can cause considerable damage both during and in the aftermath of the storm. Portions of a shoreline trail were flooded to the point of standing water at the surface on and around the GEOWEB system’s protected areas.

The heavy rains caused areas of the park to close where it experienced significant flood damage. The floods left behind a path of standing water, debris, overflowing banks, and eroded areas around the park.

During these heavy rainfall events, the ground becomes saturated to the point where it cannot infiltrate water, resulting in sheet flow runoff. To prevent erosion and protect against such runoff, the GEOWEB System serves as a safeguard by confining the infill material. The system’s cell walls function like check dams, ensuring that the infill remains contained within each cell. Once the water is capable of infiltrating, it can gradually percolate through the confined infill material, allowing it to be stored, treated, and released slowly. This process helps to mitigate the risk of flooding and soil erosion while maintaining the overall integrity of the GEOWEB System.

Because of the GEOWEB Soil Stabilization System and the extra precautions taken, such as the tendons with ATRA anchors, the trail was not washed away. Since the trail was still useable, maintenance workers were able to access the damaged areas of the park for inspection and repair. No repair was needed to the GEOWEB recreational trail, and once the water was able to infiltrate the system, the trail was as good as new.

“The GEOWEB System has helped to keep large sections of the trail from completely washing away. Other locations along the trail’s route experienced some erosion but overall, considering the amount of rain, the trail held up reasonably well,” stated City of the Colony Parks Manager. “Thankfully, the GEOWEB product included in the trail construction performed as expected and helped to minimize the damage.”

Today, 13 years later, the park still offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities and promotes nature preservation. The GEOWEB multi-use recreational trail along the lake’s shoreline is a favorite among many visitors, accommodating pedestrians, bikers, small vehicles, and occasional equestrian traffic.

Learn more about the GEOWEB® Recreational Trails:

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Published April 2023

About the Author

Presto Geosystems is a leading manufacturer of high-quality soil stabilization and porous pavement products.

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