June 20, 2011
Today we had the opportunity to work with Chris Baker, president of ACE (American Conservation Experience) and an expert on sustainable and low-impact trail design. He gave a short and very engaging and informative presentation to the interns as well as Conservancy staff, Travis from Howland’s Landing educational camps, and Ashley, the Nature and Conservation Director of Boy Scouts Emerald Bay on the principles of sustainable trail design. The 3 golden rules of trail design he covered were 1) Do No Harm 2)Complement the Landscape 3)Erosion Abuses the Landscape all of which he liked to sum up as “Think like water!” Chris discussed if you think about the purpose of the trail and the type of hikers that will visit, the design should match their needs so that they will use the trail instead of wandering around the general area. Since water can be such a damaging factor to a trail a large portion of the talk was dedicated to guidelines regarding slope, such as the Half Rule “the trail grade should be no more than half the sideslope grade” [Trail Solutions, IMBA 2004] and full bench construction, all the exposed soil on the trail is hardpack. He then trained us on the use of clinometers, a sighting device which provides information on degree or percent of a slope. We practiced estimating slope, then went to the Deer Valley Watershed right next to the WIES campus and set about designing the trail. The process ended up being considerably difficult, democratic and ultimately very rewarding. We would establish control points, areas of interest that we would like our trail to visit, then use the clinometer to determine the slope, look about, re-determine the slope, and debate about the best route for the trail. If we concluded that the trail would be successful, both for people hiking and with regard to impact on the ecosystem, we would put down a trail marking flag. Some areas were pretty obvious as to the direction we would go and others would be very difficult requiring us to fan out and follow game trails, some of which required crawling through. It was a tough day of work; just the beginning of the process of designing our trail but it was a great day and Chris Baker is very knowledgeable and passionate about his work and we were lucky that he was able to come out to Catalina to help us design this trail.