Concrete Trails Keep You on the Right Path

If a hard surface recreational trail is in your future, you owe it to yourself to look at the benefits of cost, construction and long term reduced maintenance that can only come with a trail paved with concrete. (This article is sponsored content.)

by Philip Kresge, Senior Vice President, Pave Ahead™, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association

“Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down” – Robert Sweetgall

“Where would we be without trails?” –

Trails provide opportunities for healthy lifestyle activities such as walking, jogging, biking, and skating for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Trails constructed within parks and greenways provide an escape from the stresses of urban life and improve mental well-being. Communities that have robust trail networks attract residents and tourists who want to bike, walk, or run for transportation, recreation, or fitness.

More than ever, trails are a part of your community’s critical infrastructure and as such, the same considerations given to design, construction and maintenance of streets and roads should be given to your trails systems. When considering the design and construction of paved trails, be sure to consider all your paving options. “Hundreds of miles of concrete trails, constructed over the last thirty years, are proof-positive of the long-lasting value of a concrete trail,” according to Jon Hansen, Senior Vice President, Local Paving for the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA). “If a hard surface recreational trail is in your future, you owe it to yourself to look at the benefits of cost, construction and long term reduced maintenance that can only come with a trail paved with concrete,” says Hansen.

Dam West before being fixed.

Dam West before being fixed.

There are many benefits to paving with concrete:

  • Initial Cost - A properly designed and constructed concrete trail is very cost competitive. When budgeting for trail construction, remember that it costs less to build it right than to pay for repairs later.
  • Ease of Construction - Concrete trails can be placed directly on compacted subgrade and require no steel reinforcement, saving both time and money during construction. Concrete trails can be built in a variety of ways. From fixed-form construction, to a variety of slipform pavers, concrete is easy to place. This allows large and small contractors the opportunity to be successful at building trails.
  • Durability - Concrete offers long-term durability, even in harsh environments and challenging conditions. Of all your paving material choices, only concrete has the strength and durability to last 30 years or more! With proper design, quality materials, and quality construction methods, concrete will provide long-life service to the public.
  • Life-Cycle Value - Due to its strength and rigidity, a concrete trail requires fewer repairs than other pavements throughout its service life, resulting in reduced maintenance requirements and significantly lower life-cycle costs
  • Minimal Maintenance - Concrete trails require minimal maintenance. With proper subgrade preparation and joint placement, a concrete trail will resist heaving, shoving and excessive cracking. Of the maintenance required, local agency staff can handle the repairs without needing to outsource the work to larger contractors.

Dam West after being fixed.

Dam West after being fixed.

To assist engineers and specifiers in the proper design and construction of concrete trails, the NRMCA Pave Ahead™ division, in conjunction with the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center and the RMC Research and Education Foundation, has developed the Guide to Concrete Trails. From the planning phase to project completion, the Guide provides assistance to design professionals, decision makers, practitioners and public agencies on the design, construction and maintenance of concrete trails and paths. There is even a special details section that covers a number of “what if” items such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, utility structures within the trail and various pavement transitions.

Click the link, Guide to Concrete Trails, to download your free pdf copy of the guide. Printed copies of the Guide are also available by contacting any of the Pave Ahead™ team.

Dam West Subdivision, Aurora, CO

Located in Aurora, CO, the Dam West subdivision has the distinction of being the first HOA in the state of Colorado. The 327-single family home subdivision includes such amenities as a clubhouse, pool, tennis courts and over 20 acres of preserved open space, all tied together by a system of walking paths.

In 1991, the HOA board of directors faced a decision on what to do with the asphalt path system built by the subdivision developer. The paths were literally falling apart, shrinking in width, and in some places, completely disintegrating. After considering the life cycle costs of replacing the path system with concrete or asphalt, the board elected to systematically replace all the asphalt paths with concrete pavement. Following the removal of the asphalt pavement, a 4-inch thick, unreinforced concrete pavement was placed directly on the compacted subgrade. The project was phased over eight years, to accommodate budget constraints.

The project was completed in 1999. Total cost of the reconstruction was $105,000. Other than replacing a panel or two, due to tree root expansion, the HOA has spent no money on maintaining the concrete path system over the last 25 years, freeing up resources to spend in other areas. Besides the concrete path system, residents also enjoy their concrete parking lot and post-tensioned concrete tennis courts.

Wingate before being fixed.

Wingate before being fixed.

Concrete Overlay on Existing Asphalt Trails

A cost-effective rehabilitation option for existing asphalt trails is a concrete overlay. In many cases, the asphalt can serve as a uniform support base for the concrete pavement. The main benefits of a concrete overlay are the speed of construction and long-term performance. In addition, the existing asphalt trail can provide a stable platform for concrete delivery. The increase in profile elevation may require material to backfill the edges and bring the shoulders back up to grade. If considering a concrete overlay of an asphalt trail, the existing pavement should be evaluated in terms of pavement history, performance goals, visual examination and thickness analysis. A similar process is outlined in the Guide to Concrete Overlays of Asphalt Parking Lots (Harrington et al. 2012).

Wingate South Park Trail, Littleton, CO

The Foothills Park & Recreation District is a special district formed in 1959 to focus on parks and recreational facilities in Jefferson County Colorado. The district maintains several recreation centers, trails, and golf courses throughout Jefferson County. The asphalt trail at Wingate South Park, located in Littleton, had reached the end of its service life, and the district was considering removing and replacing the trail with asphalt. This approach would have required removal of a large amount of material in an area with few access points.

The district decided instead to overlay the existing asphalt trail with concrete pavement. A 4” concrete overlay was placed directly on the existing asphalt pavement. Once the new concrete overlay was in-place, the district added shoulder material to ensure the safety of trail users. Additionally, pre-existing drainage issues along the trail were mitigated. This approach saved the district the cost and associated environmental impact of removing the existing asphalt from the park.

Trail users at Wingate South Park are now greeted by a beautiful, bright, and safe concrete trail running through the scenic open space. And the district not only saved time and money over the asphalt reconstruction alternative, but they will also enjoy years of low maintenance, freeing up money to spend on other important recreation projects within the district.

Wingate after being fixed.

Wingate after being fixed.

The Pervious Concrete Alternative

It’s tough to balance the demand for development with the need to preserve our natural resources. However, this balance becomes easy to achieve when you pave with pervious concrete. Pervious concrete is a mix of coarse aggregate, cement, water, and little to no sand. Also known as “no-fines” or porous concrete, this mixture creates an open-cell structure, allowing rainwater to filter through to underlying soil. By modeling natural ground cover, pervious concrete is an excellent choice for stormwater management.

Pervious concrete has been successfully used for low volume streets, driveways, sidewalks, golf cart paths, retaining walls, slope protection, and French drains. Pervious concrete can be utilized in a variety of paving applications to provide hardscape without altering hydrology of the land.

Pave Ahead™ - There’s a Better Way to Pave

There is a better way to pave. It’s called concrete. The NRMCA’s Pave Ahead™ website hosts a wealth of information and resources for all types of concrete pavement. Additionally, engineers and specifiers can access the Pave Ahead™ Design Center, through which you can work with the design professionals in the Design Assistance Program (DAP). The Pave Ahead™ team of paving and green-building experts will help optimize your pavement designs as well as demonstrate how concrete pavements can impact your project’s certification through LEED©, Greenroads® or other green building rating systems.

For more information from this sponsored article, go to or email [email protected].

About the Author

Philip Kresge has been with NRMCA since October 2004. As Senior Vice President of NRMCA’s Local Paving Division, Phil works with state, regional and local promotion partners to help deliver concrete parking and street paving projects by supporting promotion, design and construction activities. He continues to work closely with the US EPA, GSA, Army Corps of Engineers and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), as well as numerous commercial accounts and their consultants. Phil is well-versed in design and construction of conventional concrete pavement, pervious concrete, roller-compacted concrete and concrete overlays of existing asphalt pavement.

Prior to his appointment with NRMCA, Phil served as Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Concrete Promotion Council (PCPC). He has thirty-two years of experience in the Ready Mixed Concrete Industry. Phil holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Syracuse University. He currently sits on the Transportation Research Board’s subcommittee on Paving Materials and the Urban Climate, the US EPA’s Heat Island Reduction Initiative, and the EPA Region III Green Highways Partnership.

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