The trails we all enjoy in our parks and open spaces are a mix of old legacy trails or, as is becoming increasingly common, entirely new trails or re-routings of old trails. Trail building today is a little different than it was not so long ago. Gone are the days when a trail would be built as a straight line between two points, damn the slope. Trail building is now a more involved process. Today, many factors are taken into account before building a trail: the slope – which affects water runoff and erosion of the trail; terrain, vegetation removal; lenght; users; and determine if the trail is even necessary or fits into the master plan for that parcel of land.
All are considered in the decision-making process before a shovel is turned or a chainsaw is turned on. Next comes determining the cost of building a viable and sustainable trail, which can range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile, depending on whether the trail is built by hand or with machinery, using volunteer labor. or a trail construction company. . As is often the case, building a trail goes beyond what the average hiker, biker, or runner is typically aware of. Well-constructed trails last for years and require minimal maintenance and repairs. The Mount Muscoco Trail in North Cheyenne Cañon Park or the Dixon Trail in Cheyenne Mountain State Park are prime examples. Building a good trail can be a long and detailed process, costing a lot of money, time and effort on the part of both land managers and often volunteers.
So when a park ranger finds out that some fool has decided to illegally build his own trail in a park or open space, without coordination, or even worse, without any measure of skill or understanding of proper trail construction methods trails, it can get a little crabby. Instead of dealing with the many other things on their long to-do list, well, they now have to spend a lot of time, energy, and generally taxpayers’ money to remove the rogue trail.
Rogue trail building is not an isolated case. According to the Colorado Springs Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, 60 miles unauthorized trails have been mapped by rangers in the open space of Red Rock Canyon. That’s to say double the kilometers of legal and authorized trails in the popular hiking and cycling destination. Similar issues have been seen in El Paso County Parks and Pike National Forest.
The problem is not only that trails are built without permission or authorization, but also that they are often poorly constructed, resulting in damage to the natural environment that our land managers are responsible for protecting, and land managers have enough. In a joint statement from Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the U.S. Forest Service, the agencies remind people that illegally constructed trails are destructive to the highly erosive soils of the Pikes Peak area, and that “[i]If you engage in illegal trail construction, you may be fined. Please join us as we all work together to conserve, protect and maintain the beauty of the Pikes Peak region. You can read the full statement below, but more importantly, if you’re building your own illegal trails, well, get rid of it. Work with our land managers to build new trails. And if you’re on the trails and you see what looks like an illegal trail, tell the authorities..
Be wise. Do good things. Leave no traces.