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.)
“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?” – AmericanTrails.org
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.
There are many benefits to paving with concrete:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Permeable Pavers provide stable, low-impact pathway through Rookery Bay Research Reserve.
The emergence of electric bicycles, commonly known as e-bikes, is a rapidly growing component of the bicycle market in the US. As a transportation option, they represent an opportunity to reduce vehicle use and emissions, as well as the physical barriers to cycling. For use on trails, they present similar opportunities to reduce barriers to cycling but, as a new use, present new challenges for trail management.
What is a sustainable trail? Building a sustainable trail system takes into account many factors. Most importantly, a sustainable trail should have as little impact to the environment as possible; this is accomplished through proper trail planning, design, construction and maintenance. A properly built trail will last for generations to come with little maintenance needed and will blend into the natural surroundings.