Trail Program to Address Trail Widening
By Matt Over, Park Ranger Supervisor
The Open Space Committee has been discussing the use of muddy trails and the issue of trail widening with the Volunteer Trail Coordinators. These two issues are somewhat related as muddy trails tend to push trail users off the formal tread onto the adjacent land, which causes trail widening. In addition, staff currently mows a five-foot-wide strip of vegetation adjacent to both sides where applicable of the formal trail tread. This practice appears to encourage trail users to walk side-by-side, which tramples the vegetation and also causes trail widening.
These issues occur primarily on trails with high usage and with flatter topography, which allows users easier access to the trail shoulders. Mowing of the edges of trails is mainly performed for two purposes: to allow trail users to view wildlife, mainly snakes, and to provide a fire break. The mowed width is to provide a 10+ foot swath with a reduction of fuels. The committee is considering if it is appropriate to reduce the width of mowing adjacent to the trails to mitigate the widening issues noted above. While a narrower mowed width will not provide a large fire break, the committee is considering if a fire break is needed at all trails, or if fire breaks can be placed in off-trail locations. The Volunteer Trail Coordinators and OSC expect that mowing a narrower width of vegetation will encourage users to stay on the trail, and should off trail use occur, the more robust vegetative growth should better withstand the impacts.
For 2021, the Open Space Committee is running a trial program on three single track trails where the mowing would be discontinued, to see if not mowing the trails leads to less trail widening. The trails included in this trial program are:
- Massey Draw Trail, from Valley Parkway to Colorow Trail
- Lark Bunting Trail, eastern portion
- Manor House Connector Trail
The Open Space Committee plans to evaluate the effectiveness of this mowing program in the spring of 2022 to see if it helps mitigate the issue of trail widening. If you have any questions, feel free to call the rangers at 303-979-1876 or email me at email@example.com.