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A scientific study in OUR FAVOR!!

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A scientific study in OUR FAVOR!!

Postby rblank » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:30 am

You can thank Mike "Bellybeans" Belben for this. I just copied it off the NTC forum. I'm going to see if I can get my hands on the whole study report. The best part is who it came from, the MA DCR!!!

this is from an E-newsletter from Mass DCR.

short version.. a study looking at trails and water crossing impacts found that hiker trails are more likey to have catastrophic sedimentation than motorized trails.

great bullet for us to refer back to!

March 2009, No. 28
Recreational Trails and Water Quality: Are They Compatible?

State parks, local conservation areas, wildlife preserves, and public watershed lands provide numerous compatible environmental and societal benefits. Some of the most important are clean water, healthy streams and functioning wetlands.

Conservation lands in Massachusetts provide clean drinking water for millions of residents. The Quabbin is one of the largest unfiltered drinking water supplies in the world. In addition, healthy forested streams and wetlands serve vital functions in minimizing flooding and protecting wildlife habitat.

Most protected areas (including many watershed lands like parts of the Quabbin) also provide for public use, exploration and recreation; and recreational trails are the avenues that bring people into nature. But to what degree are recreational trails compatible with natural resource benefits such as protecting streams and water quality? Do certain trail uses have a greater impact than others? Are there planning and design considerations that can minimize impacts?

Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, through their office in Brunswick, Maine, has been working on an on-going project to try to help answer these questions. To quantify the ecological impact of recreation trails, they sampled 112 trail segments in Maine and New Hampshire, including trails with motorized uses (55), those that had both hiking and biking (26) and those with pedestrian uses only (31). Where trails crossed stream channels, the researchers recorded the crossing structure (culvert, bridge, or ford) and assessed sediment inputs and habitat connectivity.

Sedimentation can impact streams and aquatic habitats in a number of ways. Sediments can fill up the spaces between rocks in a stream and impair in-stream habitat. Sedimentation can lead to scouring and thus more erosion downstream. Severe sedimentation can also clog animals breathing and feeding devices, and lead to increased water temperatures and reduced oxygen levels.

In this study, they found that 38% of stream crossings had no sediment inputs, 29% of crossings had trace sediment inputs, 24% had moderate measurable inputs and 9% had catastrophic sediment inputs (see photo left). The good news from these results is that 67% of trail stream crossings showed little or no impact on water quality through sedimentation. The bad news is that one-third did impact water quality.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, the 9% of stream crossings classified as producing catastrophic sediment inputs included trails across all use types. In fact, while motorized trails seemed a bit more likely to produce catastrophic inputs, hiking only trails were more likely to produce either moderate or catastrophic inputs.

The majority of trails with catastrophic sediment additions were on small streams of only 1-2 meters in width. The presence, quality and condition of the stream crossing structure also appeared to play a role in the impacts to water quality. Trail crossings at larger streams tended to have better infrastructure (bridges and culverts) and the study found that many trails crossing small streams did not have appropriate crossing structures which may have led to increased sedimentation. This may be particularly true for pedestrian only trails.


What might this information mean for trail developers, maintainers and managers? Most importantly, it means that all types of recreational trails can and do impact water quality, and as managers and maintainers, we cannot ignore this fact.

Trail developers and designers should make sure that they pay attention to any stream crossing, particularly those on smaller streams that might otherwise be overlooked. They should ask themselves: Does this trail really need to cross this stream? Where is the best place to cross? What type of crossing would be best?

Best management practices for stream crossings include:

    ? Crossing at right angles

    ? Cross at locations with an approach that is both gradual and on stable soils

    ? Construct a crossing that is appropriate to the trail use and is designed to keep users on the trail

    ? Inspect crossings periodically

Recreation and conservation can and should go hand in hand, but as we work to develop recreational facilities such as trails, we all need to ensure that they are designed, constructed, managed and maintained in ways that successfully protect critical environmental resources such as water quality and stream health.

(Special thanks to Ethel Wilkerson of the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences ( for her work and contributions to this article.)
*DISCLAIMER* - The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author and do not in any way represent, nor imply to represent, the views of the North East Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, it's officers, members, or affiliates.
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Postby Paul » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am

I'll forward you the newsletter, I get a copy too.

Guy that used to do stuff a long long time ago.
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Postby rblank » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:10 am

*DISCLAIMER* - The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author and do not in any way represent, nor imply to represent, the views of the North East Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, it's officers, members, or affiliates.
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Postby axle » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:01 am

Bob Butler, New England Jeepz, NEA VP, RI Land Chair
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Postby Zaedock » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:34 pm

Well, I'm still not going to hold my breath. We could show this state that fawking flowers sprout after our tires touch the trail and they'd still find a way to either not recognize our user group or reward the 30,000 registered ATV's with 3 areas to recreate. :roll:'s a step in the right direction. :up:
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