Recreational Trail Preventive Maintenance – Mn/DOT and LRRB Research Project

Recreational Trail Preventive Maintenance – Mn/DOT and LRRB Research Project


JAKE: Hey, this is Jake Akervik. I’m the Communication Coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) Research Services. I’m here with Tom Wood. He’s a Research Project
Supervisor with the Mn/DOT Office of Materials and Road Research. And we’re here today to talk about a
project and topic: Preventive Trail Maintenance. Tom, you want to talk a little bit about
the project and topic and tell us why it’s important and why you did the project? TOM: Okay, thanks, Jake. Yeah, two or three years ago a group of
us got together and we realized that in Minnesota we had a lot of recreational trails. These
were city, county, and state trails, and these trails have numerous users. They
have everywhere from the recreational walker, which I am happy to be one, to the rollerbladers, the fitness trainers,
to the people who are commuting. It’s amazing how many people use these trails to commute
to work with the high cost of gas and the concern
for the environment, it’s growing. One of the sad things we noticed was that people
were building new trails every year but they were forgetting them, and trails suffer more from environmental
aging than roadways do because they do not have traffic on them to knead them and keep ’em alive. So, basically they were building the trails and ultraviolet (UV)
light and the sunlight and everything was deteriorating them and they were failing. And trails are very expensive
to build because of limited access. You can see behind me that this trail is very beautiful going down through
the woods, but in order to get a paver in there it’s very difficult and very expensive. So we got together and we said, ‘hey, we need
to look at, can we maintain our trails? Can we do preventive maintenance to maintain our
trails?’ In other words, can we give our trail an oil change like you do to your car? And so we got together and started the project
and what we did is we looked at what was currently being done, and we were looking at what we were doing
on the streets and seeing if we could modify ’em. Some of the things we looked at was chip sealing,
which we do regularly on a street, and that’s a heavy asphalt layer of binder followed by a layer of rock. And we found that worked very well to extend
the life of a trail, but the problem is if you’re not careful of the size rock, if you use
too big a rock it gives you a texture that the rollerbladers
don’t like, it makes their feet go to sleep. So we found out we had to modify the size of rock.
We had to go to a smaller rock to give a smoother surface to be acceptable to all the users. The next thing we looked is fog sealing,
and fog sealing is similar to spraying a layer of paint on your
wood siding on your house, and it’s basically you spray an asphalt emulsion on there and it cures and it paints black.
And what that layer does, that film protects the surface of the trail from the ultraviolet light and from oxidation and all those things there, and
it was very cost-effective. And then we also looked at crack sealing, and we found that any of these things you do will extend the life of your trail. We also found that if you start your preventive maintenance right when you
build the trail and you do it on a regular cycle you’re gonna get the most bang for the
buck. And another way to save money we found is if
you’re doing a, let’s say a chip seal on your city street
and you’ve got trails along it, in your contracting your chip seal for your streets
include your trail in that chip seal contract, and it adds volume to the contract and you get a better
price for not only your street but also your trail. JAKE: Tom, can you talk a little bit about, there’s some national interest in this project. TOM: Yeah, that’s really
been fun. One of the key goals of this project beside looking at the treatments
and the methods was to raise the awareness that we had
to do preventive maintenance for trails. Trails are forgotten, and it’s been fun since
the report’s been published we’ve had numerous states call us up asking
for information about what we’re doing. We’ve been asked to talk at numerous conferences
about it, and what’s even gonna be more fun is that we’ve got an implementation project coming
up where we’re gonna take the findings of this study and develop a short
class for the practitioners to use to figure out how to maintain their trails,
which is gonna raise the awareness. The technical adviser on this project asked me right when we were finishing up if we had accomplished our goals, and I told him, I said the biggest goal was, in my opinion,
was to raise the awareness that we have all these thousands of miles of trails that are dying from environmental death, that by
as simple as doing an oil change, in other words preventive maintenance, we can extend
their life 15, 20 years longer than what it would
normally be. JAKE: Tom, can you talk a little bit about why implementation is important for research projects. TOM: Implementation, to me is the key for research. For
years people, colleges, research offices, have done research projects and they end up sitting on the
shelf and nobody knows about the findings. And the best research in the world has no value unless you share it with the people that need
to know the information. And the key to share it is numerous ways: by
doing presentations, by doing training with it, and publication and even little short
videos like this. JAKE: Okay, that’s great Tom, we appreciate you talking about the topic. If you need more information you can find information about the project and contact information on the LRRB’s [Local Road Research Board] website, www.lrrb.org. You can also find information on the Mn/DOT Research website at www.research.dot.state.mn.us. Thanks, Tom. TOM: Thank you, Jake, have a good day. JAKE: You too.

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