Trails and greenways play a vital role in communities by preserving and creating open spaces for low or no-cost outdoor recreation. They encourage people to get outside and safely explore environmentally sensitive areas that would otherwise be difficult or dangerous to access. Trails also function as a safe transportation corridor for those who commute by foot or bicycle.
When talking about recreational trails, it’s also important to acknowledge the economic impact they have on communities. Many recreational trails across the country are revenue-generating tourist destinations that positively impact local economies.
Fundamentals of Good Recreational Trail Design
There are three key considerations to good trail design: reinforcement, drainage, and confinement of surface materials. These are critical components required to withstand repeated traffic loading, resist degradation from erosion, and minimize environmental impact.
Finding economical and low-maintenance solutions to stabilize trails and greenways can be difficult. It is even more challenging in poor soil environments or environmentally sensitive areas where minimal disturbance is allowed, or where paving or filling within an existing floodplain or coastal area is limited by local, state, or federal regulations.
Presto Geosystems’ soil stabilization solutions overcome these challenges by providing low environmental impact options that offer long-term stability for pedestrian, equestrian, bicycle, wheelchair (ADA-compliant with appropriate aggregate infill), ATV, or multi-use trails. Protecting the trail surface from excessive rutting and long-term erosion while maintaining adequate permeability are key design considerations for many multi-use recreational trail projects.
Build Better Multi-Use Recreational Trails with the GEOWEB® 3D Soil Stabilization System
Multi-use trails can be designed to accommodate a variety of traffic, including pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, and motorized vehicles. Through the confinement of aggregate infill, the GEOWEB 3D Soil Stabilization System creates a stable, low-maintenance trail surface. The highly permeable GEOWEB system reduces stormwater runoff and surface water ponding, allowing for natural percolation through the permeable infill and underlying granular base.
The GEOWEB system is fast to install without the use of heavy equipment—even in difficult or remote terrain. Construction vehicles can drive on the surface immediately after infill placement, helping to expedite construction.
The flexibility and versatility of the GEOWEB system make it the ideal solution for recreational trails. Surfaces for multi-use trails are built with GEOWEB sections that are 8.5’ wide by 27’ long, and typically 4” or 6” deep. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) used to manufacture The GEOWEB sections can be easily cut to accommodate any width or length, and its flexible structure allows it to follow the curves and contours of the landscape, seamlessly integrating into the natural environment.
Building Trails Through Protected Areas and Wetlands/Coastal Areas
Designing trails through nature preserves or environmentally sensitive areas may require a low-impact solution to prevent damage to wetlands, coastal areas, and other protected habitats. The load-spreading ability of the GEOWEB 3D Soil Stabilization System helps minimize construction and traffic-related damage to a tree’s critical root zone by reducing soil compaction and protecting near-surface roots. The open-graded aggregate surface is highly permeable, allowing moisture to get to the tree’s roots and limiting stormwater runoff.
Case Study: GEOWEB System Provides Flexible, Low-Impact Solution for Texas Shoreline Trail
Developers in the City of the Colony, Texas, required a flexible and low-impact recreational trail that conformed to the curves and contours of the adjacent shoreline. The trail needed to accommodate traffic from pedestrians, bikes, small vehicles, and equestrians. The GEOWEB Soil Stabilization System with a well-graded, decomposed granite infill met these requirements. This infill material was readily available in the area, though any stone is acceptable as long as it is angular and promotes good drainage.
Tendons & Anchors Secure Sections Against Potential Uplift
Due to the high water table and lake level fluctuations, additional steps were taken to protect against potential uplift of the system. During installation, the contractors ran a series of polyester tendons through the GEOWEB panels and anchored them at regular intervals across each section. The use of tendons in conjunction with the stone infill material helped anchor the system, thereby providing resistance to buoyant forces that could otherwise uplift and deform the trail surface in response to elevated water table conditions This practice is recommended in wet environments with saturated soils.
Permeable Surface Infiltrates Water, Reduces Runoff and Ponding
Trails built with the GEOWEB system support green infrastructure initiatives because they do not disrupt the water cycle or impact the groundwater flow. No additional stormwater infrastructure is necessary when the trail surface is permeable, so there is minimal impact on the surrounding environment.
The result was a stabilized, clean trail, suitable for a variety of traffic without needing constant maintenance. The path is clearly delineated while maintaining a natural aesthetic.
Design Support & Resources for Recreational Trail Design
The engineering team at Presto Geosystems works closely with civil engineers, offering free project evaluation services and on-site support for recreational trails and embankments.