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American Trails presents "Trail Construction Cost Realities" as a part of the American Trails "Advancing Trails Webinar Series"



Trail Construction Cost Realities

American Trails presented this Webinar on February 22, 2018 with Margie Tatro, founder/co-owner of Reineke Construction. This webinar delivers a simple, cost estimating tool and provide a list of the key factors associated with trail construction costs. The methodology presented in the webinar applies to ALL trail construction projects, though the examples shown are all non-paved trails.





The presenter is:

Read more and learn about the presenter...



Learning Credits and CEUs


American Trails is now proud to be a certified provider of the following learning credits and continuing education opportunities:


Learning credits are included in the registration fee. Our webinars earn the following credits: AICP CM (1.25) LA CES (1.25) NRPA (0.10).


CLOSED CAPTIONING: We are offering closed captioning for our webinars, thanks to a partnership with VZP Digital. If you are in need of this service, please email us prior to the webinar. An unedited transcript will be sent to all attendees following the webinar.


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One of the most challenging elements of trail planning is budgeting. Understanding the factors associated with trail construction cost estimates will help a wide spectrum of trail community members. This workshop will deliver a simple, cost estimating tool and provide a list of the key factors associated with trail construction costs. Issues such as the true costs, risks, and opportunities of volunteer labor; overhead costs such as equipment maintenance; and comparisons of hand-built and machine-built construction methods will be covered.


This workshop is appropriate for recreation planners, land managers, trail advocates, policy makers, designers, and architects. Trail service providers are also welcome.




This webinar qualifies as a Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) course (via LA CES).


Presenter for the Webinar:


photo of a Margie

Margie Tatro is a degreed engineer and founder/co-owner of Reineke Construction. The firm, headquartered in central New Mexico, has been in the trail and outdoor construction business since 2006. Margie is has served as a member of the board of directors for the Professional Trail Builders Association. In addition to her trail industry experience with Reineke Construction, she has over 25 years of experience in leading research efforts and managing budgets of over $150 million annually. Mark Reineke (co-developer of the webinar material) is a registered professional engineer, has held contractor’s licenses continually for over 32 years, and has over 26 years of construction project management experience.



Webinar Q & A


Mike asks:
Why do some trail construction projects require bonding while others do not?

Margie’s response: Bonding requirements are set by the funding entity or requestor of a bid.  Some entities believe bonding provides added insurance that a contractor will complete a job. Reference checks and past performance records of contractors can be less costly and more effective means for insuring reputable contractors. Bonding can add 3-5% to the cost of a project.

Paisley asks:
My terrain is more vegetated than the photos you show from your area. In a densely vegetated area what percentage of a new trail construction cost is dedicated to corridor clearing?
Margie’s response: Corridor clearing may require as much or more effort than tread construction. Our experience in the high elevation forests of Southwestern United States is that at least 50% of our crew time is dedicated to corridor clearing.
Jessica asks
Clubs/volunteer groups and agencies might receive a grant to purchase equipment (such as a trail dozer). What would you suggest such groups budget for annually for maintenance/upkeep of a trail dozer or mini-ex?

Margie’s response: Maintenance of trail construction equipment depends on running hours, terrain/environment, and operator treatment.  A starting number might be $1000/year, not including the cost of insurance and fuel. For more information about the cost of ownership of equipment, see examples from the Caterpillar Performance Handbook, or use the trail specific spreadsheet distributed to webinar attendees.


Christina Jordan asks:
Is the $2 to $100/linear foot inclusive of trail width, and is that one of the primary sources of variability? I've always heard $1million/mile.

Margie’s response: Cost per linear foot or mile is dependent on a large number of variables, but trail width is not a primary one.  Soil, vegetation, access, amenities, and structures are primary variables.  Cost per linear foot might be a valid metric for past projects, but should not be used prospectively.

Cathleen Corlett asks:
Why is trail design not listed as a service?

Margie’s response:  Trail design is certainly a valid service and is missing from the slides.  Thank you for pointing this out.

Can you share any guidelines on how to budget for signage?

Margie’s response:  Signage costs vary tremendously, but an effective signage system doesn’t have to be expensive.  Take pictures or draw sketches of a sign system you like and ask for a quote from trail builders or sign companies.  Installation (especially on long segments of remote trails) can be more expensive that the signs, so think creatively, and include a budget for replacing worn signs.

Jo Hickson asks:
Where in the estimate or do you estimate for local, state sales tax with the cost of materials?

Margie’s response: Taxes can be applied to each cost category or to the total costs such as we do with profit and overhead costs.  If labor and materials are taxed at different rates for your project, it is best to add the taxes to each category.

Please describe what is included or meant by mobilization

Margie’s response: Mobilization is the cost of getting personnel and equipment to the job site.  It might include the rental of a secure container or fenced area for overnight storage of equipment as well.

Trisha Kaplan asks:
When completing a quote for an RFP, do you separate all elements into the 5 categories? For example, Do you isolate Trail labor, equipment, materials, as well as isolate infrastructure labor, equipment, and materials? Or do you just use the 5 categories, and put all project elements under those categories?

Margie’s response: We provide quotes in cost categories requested by the client.  If no specific categories are requested, we usually provide a single number.

Kevin Dwyer asks:
Can you say anything particular about mountain bike and/or downhill mountain bike trail costs?

Margie’s response: Facilities such as downhill mountain bike courses are a trail specialty.  These projects are heavily dependent on the number and type of amenities that are included. Also, excavation, dirt shaping, and compacting are common in these projects. Several members of the Professional TrailBuilders Association are dedicated to this domain and we encourage you to search for and contact them via

Stephen Rogers asks:
Where was the slot canyon trail located at the beginning of the presentation?

Margie’s response: Catwalk National Recreation Trail near Silver City, New Mexico.

Christopher Bernard asks:
Would you simply manage risk in bidding either by requesting a LUMP SUM bid (Risk on bidder) or a Day Rate (Risk on Client)

Margie’s response: This can be an effective strategy for managing some risks such as unknown rock or weather. The challenge with a day rate is that such an arrangement does not incentivize efficiency and could leave the client with an unfinished project if the budget is fully exhausted before the project is completed.

Cynthia Willis asks:
How does ADA requirements impact your cost estimates?

Margie’s response:  Every set of requirements will impact a trail construction cost estimate.  If a firm and stable surface is required, a trail might need to be surfaced.  Accessibility standards influence the design of a trail in terms of corridor, grade, cross slopes, structures and other characteristics.  A more accessible trail is not necessarily more expensive to build than a less accessible trail.

How does funding resources - Federal Funding guidelines - impact your cost estimates?

Margie’s response:  In every project, it is important to clearly state the requirements, and trail projects are no different.  Our experience is that federally funded projects have a higher administrative burden when compared with privately funded projects, but this is only our experience, and may not be true universally.  Requirements such as obtaining “clearances” for environmental, cultural, and other resources, can add significant costs and time delays to a project.

Suzanne Wilson asks:
Can you talk about the advantages/disadvantages design-build projects with regards to cost?

Margie’s response: I do not have data regarding cost differences for design-build versus design, then build, trail construction projects, but my sense is that there are significant cost savings with the design-build approach. One advantage of design-build projects is the ability to deal with unforeseen field conditions to optimize the sustainability and functionality of a trail.  For example, a trail designer could route a trail through an area where bedrock prevents construction of the specified tread cross section.  If such a situation is encountered during a design-build process, a change in the alignment might be an appropriate solution. This is likely less costly than trying to remove or shape the bedrock.  A second advantage is that the construction documents can be much simpler, thus reducing the cost of preparing the contract documents. Detailed engineering drawings are expensive to create.  Our experience is that design-build projects tend to take much less time from start to finish.

Jason Oles asks:
Are you aware of any resources specific to building hiking trails on perma frost?

Margie’s response:  No, but you might contact a professional trailbuilder in Alaska or Canada to ask this question. There are also companies that manufacture support structures for construction of trails over water an on unstable surfaces, so these firms might be worth contacting.

Angel Belensky asks:
Do you have any recommendations for trail surfaces for use with horses? What have you found to hold up the best under mid to heavy use on historical landscapes?

Margie’s response: We have had good experience using Tri-Lock blocks, especially for trail heads, and drainage structures on equestrian trails.  Excavation is required for installation. They come in wide variety of colors (to match your soil), are easy to install, and are very durable.  We are fortunate to have qualified block foundry in our state, so transportation costs are quite reasonable.

Mariana Marmol asks:
Would your tool be a good starting point for estimating costs for concrete trails that are mostly along bayous? Similar to Bayou Greenways in Houston.

Margie’s response: Yes, the spreadsheet can be used for any trail construction project.

Kim Frederick asks:
Hi Candace, Where was the slot canyon trail and the trail with the rail images from?

Margie’s response: The slot canyon trail is the Catwalk National Recreation Trail near Silver City, New Mexico. The image with the hand rails along a steep rock face is Beacon Rock State Park, Washington.

Does the presenter have any experience with permitting as it relates to contracted trail construction?

Margie’s response: Our firm normally subcontracts out for the development of storm water permits and other such permits.

Local e.g. storm water or road crossing and Environmental like 404, NEPA,  etc.





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