Empowering Volunteer Leaders

How to Build Sustainable Trails

As a resident of the Atlanta area, you don’t have to go far to feel miles away from urban life. Many parks, such as Cascade Springs Nature Preserve in Southwest Atlanta, Southside Park in South Atlanta, or Murphey Candler Park in Brookhaven, include natural walking trails that invite you to stroll at your leisure—or to grab your mountain bike for a ride!

A natural surface trail is a fantastic addition to any park, especially those with forests. Natural trails are affordable, protect the ecosystem from destruction caused by the heavy machinery required to lay pavement, and are gentle on your knees!

On September 22nd, Park Pride, in partnership with MTB Atlanta, offered a workshop to park enthusiasts on how to build sustainable trails. Veteran trail builder and educator, Walt Bready of MTB Atlanta, shared his expertise on the best practices of trail design before empowering the workshop attendees with some real trail building experience at the Outdoor Activity Center.

“Through workshops, Park Pride strives to equip Friends of the Park volunteers with the skills needed to take on a variety of park projects,” explained John Ahern, Park Pride’s Volunteer Manager. “When they have the confidence in their own abilities, they’ll lead their own projects and teach other volunteers. Then, there’s no limit to how much can be accomplished!”

If you’re interested in creating sustainable trails at your park, consider the steps below, adapted from IMBA’s Trail Solutions:

  1. Build support from within your community for the trail project and talk to your city or county officials for initial permissions.
  2. Identify the park’s boundaries. This is especially critical if working within a forested area where boundaries of the park are unclear.
  3. Identify points of interest within the park that you’ll want to include along the trail, as well as areas to avoid.
  4. Create a “rough draft” of the trail by walking and marking the route using accepted trail design standards (see IMBA Trail Solutions or SCA Lightly on the Land).
  5. Consult with Park Pride to develop a construction plan and to fully understand your project requirements, and reconfirm all permissions with city or county officials.
  6. Rally volunteers and begin construction!

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