Not too long ago, there were few resources available to help state and federal land managers, off-highway vehicle (OHV) program managers, and OHV clubs successfully convert existing natural surface roads to sustainable trails. Thankfully, that has all changed. Now there is plenty of information, written by professional trail designers and builders, to help with that effort, benefitting both agencies and user groups. Here are three outstanding tools you can use to turn roads into trails.
“Transforming Existing Routes Into Manageable, Enjoyable Trails for the OHV Community” by Margie Tatro, Reineke Construction
Margie Tatro, co-owner of Reineke Construction in Sandia Park, New Mexico, has 20 years of experience designing and building motorized and non-motorized trails. Three years ago, she saw the need for more information on road conversions, and created a powerpoint presentation on the subject.
“It was at the 2013 American Trails Conference in Arizona, during a group discussion. Land managers said they have corridors, fire roads, logging roads and utility line easements that they are often required to use for trails, because they already have environment and wildlife clearances. Often, they are the only routes they can get accepted as trails. The land managers would say, ‘I have this resource. What can I do with it?’ That’s what sparked me to develop this presentation.
“I couldn’t find much information on the topic. But we had some experience with road conversions with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and State Parks. We collected our notes and pictures on our successful conversions and made a list of the techniques and ideas that worked best for our clients.”
The presentation is titled “Transforming Existing Routes Into Manageable, Enjoyable Trails for the OHV Community.” Tatro presented it at the 2013 joint conference of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) and the International Off-Highway Vehicle Administrators Association (INOHVAA), and at last year’s Sustainable Trails Conference of the Professional TrailBuilders Association (PTBA). Tatro is a board member of PTBA. She also teamed with Drew Stoll of Great Outdoors Consultants to conduct a webinar on the topic, sponsored by the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals.
A key point to remember, said Tatro, and one that a lot of land managers, trail users and volunteer groups often don’t understand, is that roads were never designed with recreation in mind. “Roads are usually built with one purpose,” she said. “To get people from point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Rather than decommissioning roads and letting them go back to a natural state, think about making them into a trail. Don’t be satisfied that it’s got to be the road as it is. Work with professionals to figure out what modifications can be done to improve that route as a trail. Many are low cost.”
Because federal budgets are low, clubs must get involved, and partner with both state and federal land managers, Tatro adds. “Work with the agencies. Clubs that have access to grant money can hire professional trail builders. They have insurance and are accountable to get the job done by a certain date. That can be a very effective partnership.”
Tatro’s 25-slide presentation breaks down the discussion into three segments: 1) Challenges presented by “evolved rather than designed” trails, 2) Basic principles of sustainable trail design, and 3) Techniques for transformation of existing routes to enhance manageability, sustainability, and “fun factor.” It features before-and-after photos of successful road conversions.
Tatro welcomes the opportunity to walk through the presentation at OHV-related meetings and conferences, in person or through pre-arranged video conferences and webinars. See her contact information below for more details.
“Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences” by Dick Dufourd, RecConnect LLC
Just nine months after NOHVCC released it, this new, 364-page resource guide is being used extensively by state, federal and provincial agencies, as well as OHV clubs and organizations across the U.S. and Canada. For detailed “how-to” information on converting roads to OHV trails, check out Chapter 17: “Conversion and Closure Techniques.”
As stated in the chapter’s introduction: “With a little creativity, many natural surface (NS) roads and abandoned railroad grades can be converted into quality trails. Leaving roads as they are and calling them trails results in trails that are too straight, too fast, too boring (too easy) and have poor drainage and poor water management. The objective of a successful conversion is to transform those negatives into positives.”
The next 13 pages provide step-by-step instructions and detailed photographs describing effective closure and rehabilitation techniques, essential to controlling and directing the use, and providing resource protection.
The fully illustrated, spiral-bound “Great Trails” book was written by Dick Dufourd, in association with NOHVCC. Dufourd worked for the USFS for 35 years, where he gained extensive experience designing and building roads, trails, parking areas and campgrounds. He was also the Central Oregon Interagency OHV Program Manager, responsible for developing and managing summer OHV opportunities for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USFS. When he retired in 2005, Dufourd and his wife, Joani, formed RecConnect LLC, an OHV consulting business based in Bend, Oregon. They have implemented more than 1,800 miles of OHV trails in the U.S. and Canada.
Dufourd is also a key presenter at NOHVCC Great Trails Workshops, where agency trail planners and OHV clubs and organizations spend time in the classroom and on public lands learning how to plan, design, construct and maintain sustainable OHV trail systems. See information below on ordering or downloading the “Great Trails” book.
“Public Land Advocacy Workshops Series DVD” by Tom Crimmins
Created by NOHVCC in 2009, this DVD is a great resource, especially for those new to trail design,construction and maintenance. Thousands of copies have been distributed free of charge to OHV clubs, organizations, public land managers and OHV program managers. Based on NOHVCC’s successful workshops and webinars on trail development, it includes fourteen separate videos, with over 12 hours of viewing.
The video scripts were written by Tom Crimmins and the NOHVCC staff. Crimmins, now retired, spent many of his 32 years with the USFS as an OHV recreation program manager. The video series walks you through the fundamentals on how to create and maintain a sustainable OHV trail system. The free DVD covers a wide range of topics, including: understanding the process required for land planning; whether you are working with land managers at the county, state or federal level; how to get involved and save trails; as well as how to plan, design, manage and maintain new trail systems. The chapter titled “The 4 Es” of building trails, covers Engineering (design, mitigation, construction), Education (maps, route signs, rules, educational points of interest), Enforcement (observing, informing) and Evaluation (followup with riders, resource protection, problem solving).
Along the way, the DVD shows examples of good and bad trails, as well as effective and ineffective signage, trail hardening, wetland mitigation and other on-the-ground issues. It also highlights trail-building success stories. It was created with help from the Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and is distributed by NOHVCC.
Put all three resources in your toolbox and and let the road conversions begin!