Wednesday, October 3, 2007

TN Study: Mountain biking has minimal trail impact

A recent study preformed, by Dr. Jeffrey L. Marion of Virginia Tech University, on the trails at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in TN/KY determined that Mountain biking has minimal trail impact. The report examines several of the trails and notes each trail's primary users. Many trails receive close to 100% of traffic from a single user group. After reviewing the 85-page report, I can break it down as follows, based on user type, after eliminating issues that were a result of poor construction design:

ATV traffic - The report is very critical of ATV use/trails. Noted ATV trails had the most problems and caused the greatest impact on the park. Common issues include fall line trails, "visitor-created informal trails", erosion, poor tread drainage/muddiness, excessive tread width, etc...

Horse Traffic - Horse trails had issues with tread width, muddiness, water drainage, and erosion, especially in areas near streams and crossing areas where there were no bridges.

Hiking Traffic - Minimal impact, though hiking trails had a lot of issue with "visitor-created informal trails".

Biking traffic -
Minimal impact. The report on the West Bandy Creek Bike Trail (use 90% bike, 10% hiking traffic) was one of the most positive in the report, for both trail condition and recommendations. In part the report states:

"The trail [West Brandy Creek Bike Trail] is narrow, and peripheral impacts are minimal. The trail is clear of blow-downs and other barriers. Although an isolated stretch is located on an abandoned road, the old width has naturalized and a current narrow path persists. This trail receives maintenance from a local bike club. This low use bike trail varied little in tread width (15-33 inches). Mean incision (1 in) and cross section area (6 in squared) measures were slightly lower than the average hiker trail, and considerably lower than the average of all trails combined."

It continues: "Summary/Recommendations: Findings indicate that this trail is in excellent condition, and park managers should use the bike user group maintenance actions as a positive example for other user groups to encourage trail stewardship."

Download the complete study. ("Assessing and Understanding Trail Degradation: Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area", 2.3MB pdf file)

No comments: