filed under: maintenance best practices
Operations, maintenance, and stewardship are essential to the safe use, enjoyment, and long-term success of any trail.
It's not as glamorous as building the trail. There is no ribbon cutting for a maintenance program and seldom does upkeep win a national award. Yet, operations, maintenance, and stewardship are essential to the safe use, enjoyment, and long-term success of any trail.
It's not as glamorous as building the trail. There is no ribbon cutting for a maintenance program and seldom does upkeep win a national award. Yet, operations, maintenance, and stewardship are essential to the safe use, enjoyment, and long-term success of any trail. Increasingly, planners and elected officials want to see a workable O & M plan. They want to know the cost and how it will be funded.
Indeed, an excellent project concept may die on the vine if these challenges are not adequately addressed. Here is an outline of the key elements of this vital aspect of trail management:
Operations and maintenance refers to the day-to-day upkeep as well as the smooth and safe functioning of a trail, greenway or trail/greenway system.
Stewardship refers to long-term care and oversight of the trail resource. This is essential to assure it will be sustained as a quality component of the community infrastructure and a good neighbor to adjacent properties and surrounding natural environment. Stewardship also includes building community support and advocacy so the integrity of the trail or greenway will not be compromised in the future.
Routine maintenance refers to the day-to-day regimen of litter pick-up, trash and debris removal, weed and dust control; trail sweeping, sign replacement, tree and shrub trimming and other regularly scheduled activities. Routine maintenance also includes minor repairs and replacements such as fixing cracks and potholes or repairing a broken handrail.
Remedial maintenance refers to correcting significant defects as well as repairing, replacing, or restoring major components that have been destroyed, damaged, or significantly deteriorated during the life of the project. Minor repairs such as repainting, seal coating asphalt pavement, or replacing signs may occur on a five to ten-year cycle. Major reconstruction items might occur over a longer period— up to 100 years or more— or after an event such as a flood. Other examples include stabilization of a severely eroded hillside, repaving a trail surface, or replacing a bridge. Remedial maintenance should be a consideration in formulating a long-term capital improvement plan, though budgeting could be on an individual and as-needed or anticipated basis.
A quality O & M program addresses specific required tasks and begins with sound design, durable components, and a comprehensive management plan. The responsible officials and entities should embrace the plan at the beginning.
Programs and protocols that will endure should be instituted, including training of field and supervisory people. In addition, community groups, residents, business owners, developers and other stakeholders should be engaged in the long-term stewardship effort.
The following guiding principles will help assure preservation of a first class system:
An effective O & M plan should include the following areas:
Following are some of the typical O & M Activities for various types of trail amenities:
User safety is critical to trail design, operations and management. Trail planners and managers should implement a safety program that includes: systematic risk management assessment, inter-agency design review for all proposed improvements and accident and crime reporting. In addition to department managers, planners, designers and engineers, law enforcement, fire/rescue and field maintenance personnel should be consulted in the design and review process.
Important steps in this process include:
Several steps can be effective on organizing leadership and effective administration of an O & M program including:
O & M costs and revenue
O & M costs can vary substantially depending on the facility, climate, and complexity of the system. For urban trail systems an annual per-mile cost might run from $2500 to $10,000.
Different sources of revenue may be identified including:
While the annual O & M costs may seem intimidating, it is important to note that the return to the community in terms of recreational benefits, health and fitness. and economic development have been shown through a number of studies nationwide to be multi-fold.
A proper O & M program will reduce long-term costs by extending the life of trails and trail components, and it will win the support of the residents, homeowners, and businesses. A community with trails and greenways needs to invest over the long term in a quality O & M program. Indeed, a community, state or nation cannot afford to not make that investment.
Published February 2018
The Crew Leader Handbook is designed to provide information for Crew Leaders organizing and overseeing projects on the North Country National Scenic Trail. This Handbook is intended as a compliment to the in-person North Country Trail Association Crew Leader training program, which is available to all volunteers looking to expand their skills sets and gain new leadership skills.
The Frisco Highline Trail, a National Recreation Trail, is using a team of goats to tame vegetation around the trail.
A compilation of best practices and guidelines for the planning, design, construction, and management of your trail employing sustainable design.
Information on apps that can be used for trail management that would be suitable for volunteer-type organizations.