Threats to Trails

That trails don’t just exist that they need to be maintained, that they need to be supported financially and politically or they are at threat of disappearing.

Trails are not viewed as critical infrastructure

There is a perception that trails just exist. If we do not help our decision makers, investors, and citizens understand that trails are critical infrastructure requiring consistent, ongoing funding and maintenance, they will simply disappear or degrade over time. We must make it apparent to citizens, leadership, and investors that trails improve the quality of life for all Americans.

Trail maintenance backlog on public lands

A 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that: The Forest Service has more miles of trail than it has been able to maintain, resulting in a persistent maintenance backlog with a range of negative effects. In fiscal year 2012, the agency reported that it accomplished at least some maintenance on about 37 percent of its 158,000 trail miles and that about one-quarter of its trail miles met the agency's standards. The Forest Service estimated the value of its trail maintenance backlog to be $314 million in fiscal year 2012, with an additional $210 million for annual maintenance, capital improvement, and operations. Trails not maintained to quality standards have a range of negative effects, such as inhibiting trail use and harming natural resources, and deferring maintenance can add to maintenance costs.

Dive deep into the perennial issue of the trail maintenance backlog and lack of adequate trail staffing on Federal, state, and local properties. Volunteers are often held up as a way to solve the backlog, but they often come with their own management issues. Strategies must be developed to appropriately utilize volunteer, youth corps, and professional trail builder resources to help manage our public land resources. We will explore the needs and develop tools based on some of the most successful organizations and agencies around the country.

photo credit: NPS

Outdoor recreation (trail construction/management) plays a huge role in economic revitalization of cities all across the country. This role is directly accompanied by skyrocketing use of trails in areas that were not originally designed to accommodate this capacity. We should not be waiting for Washington to take action. Addressing capacity and overuse on our trails lies in the public’s interest.

This is an interesting article from NPR that directly addresses the issues that many of our rural communities bordering overused public lands are facing:

User conflict

Motorized, equestrian, biking, and hiking users do not always get along. The truth is, different user types often need different amenities, but we all have far more in common than not. When conflicts inevitably arise, what do we do? In order to resolve the issues around multi-use conflicts, we must first understanding the needs of the different user groups, and then explore best practices for meeting those needs through innovative planning and design techniques.

More articles in this category

2023 Legacy Trails Program Grant Awardee Portal

posted Apr 3, 2023

Below you will find documents that may be useful as you prepare your invoices.

2023 Legacy Trail Program Awardees Announced

posted Feb 2, 2023

We are excited to announce the winners of our 2023 Legacy Trail Program grants. In the first year of this program, we funded a total of $1.35 million to 33 organizations.

10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge

posted Mar 21, 2022

Why Do We Need a Trail Challenge? Despite the great work happening in support of trails, workload demands continue to outpace the capacity of agency staff, partners, and volunteers. To address these shortcomings, the Forest Service has issued a 10-year Trail Challenge. It focuses the collective energy and resources of the trail community on actions resulting in greater collective capacity to manage and maintain trails, as well as more miles of trails that are well-designed, well-maintained, and well-suited to support recreation use today and into the future.

How Communities are Paying to Maintain Trails, Bike Lanes, and Sidewalks

posted Aug 19, 2020

This report addresses both the technical and political challenges of how communities are paying to maintain trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks. It examines agency maintenance policies and provides examples of communities who’ve successfully made these facilities a priority.