The Influence of Layout on Appalachian Trail Soil Loss, Widening, and Muddiness

Implications for sustainable trail design and management

This research investigates the influence of layout and design on the severity of trail degradation.

Previous trail studies have been restricted by relatively small study areas which provide a limited range of environmental conditions and therefore produce findings with limited applicability; this research improves on this limitation by analyzing a representative sample of the Appalachian Trail with significant topographical, ecological, use- related, and managerial diversity. Many trail science studies have also focused on a singular form of trail degradation, whereas this study investigates all three core types of trail impact: trail soil loss, widening and muddiness. Relational analyses with all three indicators provide a more cohesive understanding of trail impact and reveal interrelationships between trail degradation processes. ANOVA testing of the mean values for these trail impact indicators across categories of influential independent factors confirms and refines the relevance of core trail design principles, specifically the sustainability advantages of trails with low grades and side-hill alignments. Findings also reveal and clarify the importance of landform grade in determining the susceptibil- ity of trails to degradation and the influence of routing decisions; these relationships have received relatively little attention in the literature. The results also reveal several methodological considerations for trail alignment metrics and trail impact indicators.

Attached document published December 2019

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