Written by Nancy Stone, Education & Sustainability Director ([email protected])
What makes a trail sustainable? Why do sustainable trails matter?
These are questions we ask at every Trail School, and they usually lead to some pretty good discussions! Here are a few examples of answers that participants provide.
A sustainable trail means that water doesn’t get stuck on the trail.
Absolutely! We are always asking ourselves, WWWD (what would water do)? In the PNW, water is our biggest consideration when building and maintaining trails. Ensuring that it exits the trail as soon as possible without gaining a lot of momentum and taking sediment with it not only prevents puddles but it helps prevent erosion.
It means there is minimal impact on the environment around the trail.
YES! A sustainable trail works within the forest, not separate from the forest.
A trail that is built sustainably will need less maintenance.
100%! When a trail is built to shed water and doesn’t fight the natural flow of the terrain, it won’t need constant maintenance. Will it still need maintenance? Well, sure! But only having to complete maintenance work on it periodically means that we can spread our resources across the hundreds of miles of trails that NWTA stewards.
At our first Trail School of the season, we were able to discern what a sustainable trail looks like on the Step Creek Trail, in the Tillamook State Forest. We were also able to distinguish areas that were problematic and needed our attention. These observations lead to discussions on how we can approach the problem in a way that improves the trail, withstands trail use and has very low impact on the surrounding forest.
The Trail Sustainability Institute (TSI) is NWTA’s educational branch of the organization. Trail School is a program that teaches the fundamentals of trail maintenance and is a good place for people who are new to trail maintenance as well as folks who have been at it for a while but are looking to fully understand the “why and how” of trail maintenance. If this sounds interesting to you, keep an eye out for our next Trail School on January 21st, sign-ups are coming soon!