Trail Closure Methods

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


Trail Closure Methods

Trail Closure MethodsM. Snodgrass & J. KellerVolunteers for Outdoor Arizonawww.VOAz.orgFrom time to time, for a variety of reasons, it will be necessary to close trails. Whether its because a land management agency issues a directive due to environmental concerns, or poor initial trail design, or any number of other factors, trail closures can be categorized as either Temporary or Permanent.The processes for either type of trail closure will differ significantly. Careful planning and an assessment of likely consequences should be conducted in all instances. Lets take a look at whats involved with both temporary and permanent trail closures.Trail ClosureTemporary trail closures can occur for myriad reasons:Bird Nesting and/or seasonal breedingWeather ConditionsNew Construction and/or MaintenanceDangerous Situations, such as extreme erosion or wildlife encountersTemporary Trail ClosuresTemporary Closure MethodsSeveral methods of enacting Temporary Closures exist:Fences and GatesSignageNatural or Man-made BarriersFactors such as topography, popularity of the trail, and a good understanding of the trail users should also be taken into account.

Area Closed, Phoenix, AZSignage for Temporary Closure

SignageSignage is an advantageous method when used correctly:If a bee hive has taken up residence along a trail, signage can readily alert users to the danger while also indicating the relatively short duration for the closure. Alternately, if a major landslide has obliterated a section of a popular trail at a heavily-visited destination (as happened at Walnut Canyon National Monument in 2010), signage will be unnecessary because of controlled access and constant human presence.

In the backcountry and at other locations where frequent monitoring is unlikely, signage may need to be augmented with the placing of obstacles such as logs, boulders, or man-made implements to thwart determined users.For Soil & Wildlife Protection, Sedona, AZSignage for Temporary Closure

Using the Appropriate TechniqueToo often, Temporary Closure techniques are used as a permanent solution for land reclamation these are not effective.

Poor Closure Technique

Poor Closure Technique

Poor Closure Technique

Poor Closure Techniqe

Temporary Closure Techniques used for Permanent Closures

Temporary Closure Techniques used for Permanent Closures

Permanent trail closures are needed for various reasons, including:Renegade TrailsTrail Re-routesReclamation of Damaged Land/AreaRegardless of the reason, the methods used to permanently remove a trail are much different than those for temporary closures.Permanent Trail ClosuresClosing TrailsClosing social and retired trails involves blocking physical access and masking old routes from trail users, especially those who have used a particular trail in the past. Rehabilitation of a landscape impacted by a trail contributes to the closure effort, but the primary concern is long term recovery of the land, and control of erosion associated with a closed trail.

Restoration CandidatesCandidates for restoration or reclamation include:fire linespermanently closed hiking trailsshortcuts across switchbackssecondary trails across meadowsinappropriate campsitesriparian areas left bare by trampling or overgrazingSuccessful closure of a trail begins with planning. Determine objectives ahead of time to allow the best methods of closure to be identified and implemented.Successful RestorationIf trails are to be permanently removed, the area may be reclaimed to achieve the most natural results possible. Each site should be individually assessed for its potential to be rehabilitated. Generally speaking, successful restoration (rehab) includes:ClosureStabilizationRe-contouringRe-vegetationMonitoring

RestorationRestoration can be as simple as blocking a closed section of trail and passively allowing the vegetation to recover, or include more complex projects, such as removing any trace of the tread, actively planting native vegetation, and constructing check dams to help stop erosion. Careful monitoring of a restored section of trail is then needed to ensure that little evidence remains of the old trail.

Simply Blocking the Closed Trail

BeforeAfterClosureThe closing of a trail is achieved through various means including:camouflageplacement of permanent obstacles either man-made or naturalusing native plants to screen the old trailIf a trail intersects other trails that will continue to be in use, then these intersections will define the boundaries of the closed trail and must be given special attention. Rehabilitation of these intersections should be done in such a way as to discourage users from choosing the old, closed trail. Walk carefully along the open trail where it meets the closed trail to determine the best approach for thwarting would-be users.Re-contouring & StabilizationTo begin closure it is necessary to break down the old tread. Trails result in compacted soils, which must be be remedied by using hand tools such as a Pulaski or the hoe end of a mattock to scarify or loosen/rip the trail bed.Dont turn the soil over. Pull loose soil and rock from the uphill side down onto the old tread. If the old tread is rutted and will carry water onto the new tread or cause erosion, create dips that will safely drain the old tread.If the former tread has been eroded, the area(s) should be treated to reduce the process. There is a wide variety of methods for erosion control including use of drain dips, natural material wattles, single rock dams, zuni bowls, etc.

Breaking down the old tread using hand tools to scarify or loosen the trail bed.Scarification

Re-contouring & Stabilization (cont.)Soils from the sides of the tread (berm and/or slough) can be raked into the former tread. This blending will aid in the reestablishment of the desert pavement. Scarification will aid in aeration of the soil, improve moisture penetration, and allow native fauna to reestablish. Place limbs and small branches on an old tread after it is scarified. This creates a microenvironment in which seeds may sprout and plants gain a foothold. If available, seeds from native fauna can be sown into the loosened soil, or native plants can be transplanted into the area.Larger rocks, native plant debris, and duff can be placed on top of the new desert pavement to further disguise/camouflage the tread. Re-vegetation Add barrier plants to discourage users. Catclaw and New Mexico locust are good choices because of their annoying profusion of spines, but they should not be planted so close to legitimate trails that the plants become a maintenance problem. A Pulaski is a good tool for grubbing and replanting barrier vegetation. Prune stems to six inches before diggingTrim roots beyond the ball. This allows plants to devote their energy to setting new roots rather than supporting topside growth.Set the plants in sunlight, if possible, and in patterns designed to achieve maximum coverage.

Re-vegetation (cont.)Each plant should be set within a small basin shaped to trap water.Press the soil down firmly after the plant is inserted.Water the plantings if possible during rainy seasons.

Cholla balls and prickly pear pads can regenerate when placed in contact with the soil in a small water-retaining depression. Prickly pear pads should be allowed to sit exposed to air for 2-24 hours before replanting. If not and there is rainfall soon after transplanting, they may absorb more moisture than they can handle. Scoop out the surface to retain rainfall at the contact point.

CamouflageTo further reclaim the area and discourage users from entering, screening with large objects (rocks, logs, and dead or living native plants) can break up the line-of-sight of the former trail. One such method is to stand dead plants in a vertical stance (vertical deadfall). It should not be possible to see any resemblance to a passable trail from anywhere on the intersecting legitimate trail. While a natural-looking, impenetrable barrier is ideal, go for obstruction over aesthetics if a choice must be made. If it works, users will accept the new route and any ugliness should fade over time. Vertical deadfall is used to break the line-of-site of a former trail.Camouflage

To discourage users from using the old trail, large rocks have been used to break up the line-of-sight of the former trail.Camouflage

Permanent Trail ClosureExample of Permanent Trail Closure(Time lapse plays automatically. To contol, simple hover over the slideshow)

Trail Reroute, Phoenix Preserve, Arizona

Desert LandscapesRehabilitation of desert landscapes is difficult. Bringing the terrain back to a prior undisturbed condition may be impractical. Desert shrubs are usually impossible to transplant because they need watering for up to a year. Dont attempt to transplant acacia, mesquite, nor ironwood. These trees depend on taproots, which are usually at least double the height of the tree. Fortunately, many desert trees generated from seeds that are already present will grow fairly rapidly. Cactus may be successfully transplanted as long as you preserve the original orientation to the sun.Complete the ClosureRestoration and reclamation are fruitless undertakings unless the impact that caused the trail damage in the first place is prevented from recurring.To complete the closure, the respective land manager should remove the former trail from maps, websites, brochures, and signs.