ARTICLE

The Importance of Trails NOW

01/01

With the onset of COVID-19 and a shift in available (and safe) activities, many people have been choosing the outdoors for their activities now more than ever. Communities and individuals are looking for outdoor recreational options, with trails at the top of that list.

Winter Trail Use

Trails allow people to get outdoors and be active in a safe space where they don’t have to worry about social distancing. That doesn’t have to stop as the weather gets cooler. There are plenty of options for winter trail use, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. Some trails have snow removal maintenance allowing year-round use for walking or biking as well. Paved trails are a great option in the winter and early spring as the ground freezes and melts.
 

Trail Design

It’s important to make trails multi-functional for the communities they serve. Trails can be more than a simple walking path. They can serve as an outdoor learning center and include features such as a limestone compass, ponds or signage. They are destinations for fitness and can include exercise equipment along the paths. They can also simply be a place to take in the view.

When designing trails, it’s important to keep these design aspects in mind:

  • Accessibility for users of all ages and capabilities.
  • Public amenities including restrooms, water fountains and adequate parking.
  • Safe road crossings with visibility for pedestrians and drivers.
  • Low maintenance for those maintaining the trails.
     

To allow ongoing use during the winter months, drainage considerations during trail design are especially important so the snow melt doesn’t run across the trail and create “black ice” for users.

Funding Options

While budgets may be tight due to COVID-19, funding options may be available to your community. Those funding sources might come from the Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources or grants from different foundations.

Trails and recreational amenities help bring communities together and offer individuals opportunities to get outdoors during the pandemic.

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Are you considering a trail or recreational amenity for your community? Now is the time to start planning for your trail system to identify logical connections and funding opportunities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Neebel, PE, regularly serves as Project Manager on recreational trail projects and has extensive experience with federal, state and other funding sources. In her free time, she frequently visits the trails she has designed with her granddaughters.

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