filed under: maintenance best practices

Maintenance Checklist for Greenways and Urban Trails

Denver has 130 miles of paved trails, open 24 hours a day and maintained for year-round use. Snow removal begins at 5 a.m. after winter storms.

by Jed Wagner, Denver Parks and Recreation Department

Maintenance to be performed on a continuous, scheduled basis:

1. Trail user safety
Safety is central to all maintenance operations, and is the single most important trail maintenance concern. Items for consideration include scheduling and documentation of inspections, the condition of railings, bridges, and trail surfaces, proper and adequate signage, removal of debris, and coordination with other agencies associated with trail maintenance.

2. Trails inspection
Trails inspections are integral to all trail maintenance operations. Inspections will occur on a regularly scheduled basis, the frequency of which will depend on the amount of trail use, location, age, and the type of construction. All trail inspections are to be documented.

3. Trail sweeping
Trail sweeping is one of the most important aspects of trail maintenance, helping ensure trail user safety. The type of sweeping to be performed depends on trail design and location. Trails that require sweeping of the whole system will be swept by machine. Trails that require only spot sweeping of bad areas will be swept by hand or with blowers. Some trails require a combination of methods. Sweeping will be performed on a regular schedule.

4. Trash removal
Trash removal from trail corridors is important from both a safety and an aesthetic viewpoint. and includes removing ground debris and emptying trash containers. Trash removal will take place on a regularly scheduled basis, the frequency of which will depend on trail use and location.

5. Tree and shrub pruning
Tree and shrub pruning will be performed for the safety of trail users. Pruning will be performed to established specifications on a scheduled and as needed basis, the frequency of which will be fairly low.

6. Mowing of vegetation
Trails maintenance personnel will mow vegetation along trail corridors on a scheduled basis only where mowing is not performed by other agencies or park districts.

7. Scheduling maintenance tasks
Inspections, maintenance, and repair of trail-related concerns will be regularly scheduled. Inspection and repair priorities should be dictated by trail use, location, and design. Scheduling maintenance tasks is a key item towards the goal of consistently clean and safe trails.

Maintenance to be performed on an irregular or as needed basis:

1. Trail Repair
Repair of asphalt or concrete trails will be closely tied to the inspection schedule. Prioritization of repairs is part of the process. The time between observation and repair of a trail will depend on whether the needed repair is deemed a hazard, to what degree the needed repair will affect the safety of the trail user, and whether the needed repair can be performed by the trails maintenance crew or if it is so extensive that it needs to be repaired by outside entities.

2. Trail Replacement
The decision to replace a trail and the type of replacement depends on many factors. These factors include the age of the trail, and the money available for replacement. Replacement involves either completely overlaying and asphalt trail with a new asphalt surface, or replacement of an asphalt trail with a concrete trail. In general, replacing asphalt trails with concrete is desirable. (A discussion of the different philosophies concerning the replacement of an asphalt trail with a concrete surface can be found elsewhere in the Bicycle Master Plan.) Parks Planning will coordinate all trail replacement, and the Trail Coordinator will recommend trails for replacement.

3. Snow and ice removal
The trails maintenance crew, with the help of the various districts, will remove snow from all city trails as soon as possible after a snowfall. The trails crew will provide help as needed to any district. Ice control and removal of ice build-up on trails in a continual factor because of the freeze-thaw cycle. Ice control is most important on grade changes and curves. Ice can be removed or gravel/ice melt applied. After the ice is gone, leftover gravel should be swept as soon as possible.

4. Weed control
Weed control along trails will be limited to areas in which certain weeds create a hazard to users (such as "goathead" thorns along trail edges). Environmentally safe weed removal methods should be used, especially along waterways.

5. Trail edging
Trail edging maintains trail width, and improves drainage. Problem areas include trail edges where berms tend to build up, and where uphill slopes erode onto the trails. Removal of this material will allow proper draining of the trail surface, allow the flowing action of the water to clean the trail, and limit standing water on trail surfaces. Proper drainage of trail surfaces will also limit ice build-up during winter months.

6. Trail drainage control
In places where low spots on the trail catch water, trail surfaces should be raised or drains built to carry away water. Some trail drainage control can be achieved through the proper edging of trails. If trail drainage is corrected near steep slopes, the possibility of erosion must be considered.

7. Trail signage
Trail signs fall into two categories: safety and information. Trail users should be informed where they are, where they are going, and how to use trails safely. Signs related to safety are most important and should be considered first. Inform-ation signage can enhance the trail users experience. A citywide system of trail information signage should be a goal.

8. Revegetation
Areas adjacent to trails that have been disturbed for any reason should be revegetated to minimize erosion.

9. Habitat enhancement and control
Habitat enhancement is achieved by planting vegetation along trails, mainly trees and shrubs. This can improve the aesthetics of the trail, help prevent erosion, and provide for wildlife habitat. Habitat control involves mitigation of damage caused by wildlife. An example is the protection of trees along waterways from damage caused by beavers.

10. Public awareness
Creating an understanding among trail users of the purpose of trails and their proper use is a goal of public awareness. Basic concepts of trail use include resolution of user conflicts, and speed limitations. The representatives should be easily accessible to field questions and concerns.

11. Trail program budget development
A detailed budget should be created for the trails program, and revised on an annual basis.

12. Volunteer coordination
The use of volunteers can help increase public awareness of trails, and provide a good source of labor for the program. Sources of volunteers include Boy Scouts, school groups, church groups, trail users, or court workers. Understanding volunteers' concerns is important, as are possible incentives or recognition of work performed. Implementation of an "Adopt-a-Trail" program should be considered.

13. Records
Good record-keeping techniques are essential to an organized program. Accurate logs should be kept on items such as daily activities, hazards found and action taken, maintenance needed and performed, etc. Records can also include surveys of the types and frequency of use of certain trail sections. This information can be used to prioritize trail management needs.

14. Graffiti control
The key to graffiti control is prompt observation and removal. During scheduled trail inspections any graffiti should be noted and the graffiti removal crew promptly notified.

15. Mapping
Several maps are privately marketed and available for trail users. From a maintenance standpoint, an accurate, detailed map of the trail system is important for internal park use.

16. Coordination with other agencies
Maintenance of trails located within more than one jurisdiction, like the Platte River Trail and the High Line Canal Trail, is provided by other agencies, in addition to Denver Parks Department. A clear understanding of maintenance responsibilities needs to be established to avoid duplicating efforts or missing maintenance on sections of the trails.

17. Education and interpretation
Many segments of the trail system contain a wealth of opportunities for education and interpretation. A successful example is Denver Public Schools' Greenway Experience, operated for many years. Trails along waterways provide good opportunities to teach and study concepts about urban wildlife and ecology. Educational opportunities range from interpretive signage to educational tours.

18. Law enforcement
A greater law-enforcement effort might be made toward the goal of a safer trail system. Law enforcement agencies should be aware about the location of trails, and the types and levels of use they receive. Sections of trail corridors being used by transients is an ongoing problem that is not easily solved. Increased law enforcement awareness will be addressed on an as needed basis.

19. Proper training of employees
Properly training maintenance employees is essential to the efficient operation of the trails maintenance program. All employees should be thoroughly trained to understand and be aware of all of the above-mentioned aspects of trail maintenance. Safety, a good work ethic, and proper care of equipment and tools will always be the backbone of a good training program. Employees must also be aware of the need for positive public contact. Proper positive attitude towards public questions and concerns is important, as is the conveyance of this information to trail supervisors.

Published November 2005

About the Author

Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) facilities are unrivaled in the Rocky Mountain West. The DPR system spans over a 148-year history, from the first park created in 1868 to nearly 20,000 acres of urban parks and mountain parkland today.

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