Shared-Use Trail Maintenance

Learn how to use this trail maintenance template to derive accurate costs.

by Tom Sexton, Director, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), Ron Steffey, Owner, Steffey Trail Connections, Henry Stroud, Principal Planner / Trail Program Manager, Montgomery County Planning Commission


Perceived shared-use trail maintenance costs can derail a project from the start. Also, trail managers struggle to come up with funding sources. However, it's surprising given this need and the number of open trails, that the true costs are not well understood or documented in order to address these two needs.

This session will introduce, and be structured around, a proposed maintenance template that could be utilized by any multi-purpose trail manager, be they paid or volunteer to derive accurate cost. Utilizing one method of quantifying the costs will assist managers of a single, or a regional or statewide system to make their case and compare accurately with similar trail types to enhance best practices.

This template grew out of a 2015 study by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy that secured feedback from over 200 trail managers.

Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will critique the proposed maintenance costs template to create a better one.
  • Participants will be able to compare cost gathering methodologies.
  • Participants can use this template on their own trails.

About the Authors

Tom Sexton has been the Director of the 10-state Northeast Regional Office of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy since 1991, the same year he founded the Environmental Fund for Pennsylvania. In the early 90s, he was the lead Pennsylvania advocate for Transportation Enhancements (now TAP) and he led the effort to protect unused rail bridges and tunnels, which resulted in an 18-month demolition moratorium. Tom led the most comprehensive study of rail-trail maintenance practices from over 200 trail managers in 2015. He was Co-chair of the 1999 International Trails and Greenways Conference.

Ron Steffey, prior to recently forming Steffey Trail Connections, was manager of the Armstrong Trail in western Pennsylvania and was involved in all aspects of rail-trail development including the purchasing, railbanking and transforming of over 70 miles of rail corridor and related infrastructure, including tunnels. Most of these projects have involved volunteers that have dramatically reduced the cost of both construction and maintenance. Ron’s strong advocacy for trails evolved over thirty years and continues to connect people to the natural Pennsylvania environment.

Henry Stroud is a native of Sebastopol, California and has been interested in trails for as long as he can remember - for his senior project in high school he built a mountain bike trail linking several farms near his house. Henry is currently a Principal Planner/Trail Program Manager with the Montgomery County Planning Commission in southeastern Pennsylvania and oversees the planning, design, and construction of county trail projects. Henry is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. His professional interests include trail planning, land management, and open space protection. Outside of work Henry is an avid rock climber, cyclist, and spy novel aficionado.

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