OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

2013/2014: New Firehouse Trail Construction

  After the pole harvest was complete, preparations for building a multi-use trail began. A dispersed connecter trail had existed for several years bridging the lower Fire House road/trail with the 580 road on the McDonald Forest, but the College of Forestry wanted an official point of access to allow the public to hike the tract and view the demonstration projects first hand. Over four Saturdays in the fall of 2013, nearly 100 volunteers committed approximately 300 work hours to construct a new 1600-foot trail. The trail was constructed to be compatible for many different users including hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. The old dispersed trail needed to be replaced because it was too steep to safely accommodate multi-use traffic.

     The trail also serves as a demonstration in itself by showing how three distinct land management objectives (forest health and vitality, revenue generating timber production and aesthetics) can co-exist on the same tract of land and mutually benefits each other.  There are a variety of reasons a small woodland owner could elect to construct a trail through their forestland. It could function as a community outlet by allowing people limited access to one’s private property. A trail would give a landowner the specific ability to control where people access their land and give them a positive reason to connect with individuals who would otherwise be trespassing. There is also the possibility of several adjacent landowners collaborating to build a continuous path or a network of trails providing a recreation outlet for their neighborhood. These landowners need to be open to collaboration and crossing property boundaries as a method to forge a relationship with their neighbors and the community.

        Hiring a professional trail crew organization can be quite expensive. For this reason, the new Firehouse Trail on the Cameron Tract was built by a volunteer work force coordinated by the College Forests recreation department. While OSU had a large network of volunteers to outreach to, finding a work force such as this could pose a challenge to a small woodland owner. One way to mitigate this would be actively reaching out to the adjacent community and recruiting people who would actually benefit from having a recreation outlet. For example, connecting with local recreation or community service groups could help with finding a volunteer workforce.

    Resoruces for Small Woodland Owners

    The major key to trail design is location. The ground needs to be stable enough to support the trail construction and not to steep. A trail can be built to traverse a steep slope, but with only a gradual slope intended for easy hiking. Proper drainage features are also essential to the longevity of a trail. If a small woodland owner is seriously considering building a trail, they should check with local land management agencies or groups that maintain trails. They may be able to find someone to volunteer their time to lead trail design and layout efforts. A good book resource for an aspiring trail builder would be Lightly on the Land, which is produced by the Student Conservation Association. Checking out websites that are particular to certain users groups is also beneficial. For example, the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) has an informative website and trail building information that would be advantageous to building a trail with mountain bikers in mind. There are similar resources available for equestrian orientated trails