The Science of Sustainable Trail Design and Management

This webinar will describe the three most common forms of trail impact, identify the most influential factors to develop and maintain sustainable trail networks, and discuss methods for rating trail sustainability.

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Event Details

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July 14, 2022

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM (Pacific Time) {more time zones}

11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (Mountain Time)
12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (Central Time)
01:00 PM to 02:30 PM (Eastern Time)


FREE for members
FREE for nonmembers

Learning Credit Cost: FREE


Closed Captioning is available for this webinar.
Learning Credits
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Webinar Outline

A “sustainable” trail or campsite can accommodate the intended type and amount of use over time without unacceptable levels of degradation or maintenance. This webinar will briefly describe the three most common forms of trail impact (trail soil loss, widening, and muddiness) and share findings from trail science studies conducted on the Appalachian Trail and other protected areas. These will focus on identifying the most influential factors that can be manipulated to develop and maintain sustainable trail networks, including trail grades, trail alignments (fall line vs side-hill), tread substrates, and tread drainage. Methods for rating trail sustainability will be presented, along with sustainable trail “Best Management Practices.”

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the three most common forms of trail impact
  • Discover the most influential factors to develop and maintain sustainable trail networks
  • Learn methods for rating trail sustainability


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

Webinar Resources

  • American Trails Webinar - The Science of Sustainable Trail Design and Management
  • Presenter Google Drive
  • Research for the Development of Best Management Practices to Minimize Horse Trail Impacts on the Hoosier National Forest
  • Backcountry Recreation Site and Trail Conditions: Haleakala National Park
  • Improving the Sustainability of the Appalachian Trail
  • Informal and Formal Trail Monitoring Protocols and Baseline Conditions: Acadia National Park
  • Assessing and Understanding Trail Degradation: Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area
  • Environmentally Sustainable Trail Management
  • A Review and Synthesis of Recreation Ecology Research Findings on Visitor Impacts to Wilderness and Protected Natural Areas
  • Assessing the Influence of Sustainable Trail Design and Maintenance on Soil Loss
  • A Review and Synthesis of Recreation Ecology Research Supporting Carrying Capacity and Visitor Use Management Decisionmaking
  • The Influence of Layout on Appalachian Trail Soil Loss, Widening, and Muddiness: Implications for sustainable trail design and management
  • Assessing the Condition and Sustainability of the Trail System at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
  • All-Terrain Vehicle Sustainability Assessments: Considerations for B.S.A. Councils
  • The influence of use-related, environmental, and managerial factors on soil loss from recreational trails
  • ORV – Social & Management Issues
  • A Call for Expanding Trails Research
  • Trail Design & Maintenance
  • Sustainable Motorized Trail Design
  • U.S. Geological Survey: Newly developed trail planning tool by USGS can help with determining trail locations, alignments or grades for both existing trails or planning for new trails or connecting trails or access:


    Webinar Partners


    Jeffrey Marion, Ph.D., Federal Scientist, U.S. Geological Survey
    Blacksburg, Virginia

    Jeff Marion is a Federal Scientist with the US Geological Survey, and is based out of Virginia Tech as an Adjunct Professor. His research specialty is Recreation Ecology, in which he investigates the environmental impacts of visitor use in protected natural areas, primarily national parks. His research has focused on visitor impacts to trails and campsites and the development of sustainable “Best Management Practices.” He was a founding member of the Leave No Trace Board of Directors, chaired the committee that guided development of the Leave No Trace principles and practices, and authored the LNT Center’s official book “Leave No Trace in the Outdoors.”


    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.

    Learning Credits and CEUs

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

    • American Institute of Certified Planners Continuing Maintenance (AICP CM)
    • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES) (most HSW approved)
    • National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) CEU equivalency petition
    • CEU/PDH equivalency petition for other accepting organizations

    Learning credits are free for attendees for American Trails webinars and the International Trails Summit, as well as for other trail and outdoor recreation-related conferences, webinars, and workshops we offer credits for. Learn more here.



    While we may individually agree (or disagree) in whole or in part with any or all of the participants, the views expressed in these webinars are not necessarily representative of the views of American Trails as an organization or its board and staff. Unless specific situations are noted by presenters, nothing in American Trails webinars should be considered to be interpreted as a standard.

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    7,209 views • posted 06/15/2022