Management and Maintenance
Next to ownership, maintenance and management are the most critical issues to be addressed when preparing for trail development. The following questions must be answered regardless of whether the trail is going to be owned publically or privately:
- Who will manage the trail or greenway?
- How will funds for maintenance be secured for future years?
- How will the safety of trail users be ensured every hour of every day, throughout the year?
How these questions are answered will affect how the trail is maintained and possibly how it is designed. Long-term trail success depends on sustainable management, maintenance and funding plans. Trail developers should recognize that there are many existing management plans to guide the creation of their own plan.
In 2005, the Northeast Regional office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy released an updated version of the report, Rail-Trail Maintenance & Operation . The report surveyed 100 trails on primary management and design topics of liability, surfaces, drainage, amenities, signs, bridges and budgets. The report may be a helpful tool when budgeting for trail maintenance.
Another handy text for the new trail developer is the book "Trails for the Twenty-First Century" which covers a broad range of general topics pertinent to trail planning and design. There are several chapters dedicated to management, partnerships and funding.
Volunteer vs. Municipal Responsibility
The development of a trail is often championed by a small, very dedicated group. While planning for the trail's long term management and maintenance there are several realities that a volunteer-based organization needs to consider. First and foremost, who will succeed them when these individuals decide to step aside? While the members of the non-profit friends' organization who promoted the development of the trail will enthusiastically support the management and maintenance effort, that enthusiasm may be difficult to maintain over generations. Raising funds to perform even minor maintenance tasks can be a challenge for a non-profit volunteer-based organization. There needs to be someone in charge who will organize work days, act as point person for emergencies and chase the funding streams.
Municipal management and maintenance of the trail carries its own set of pluses and minuses. Generally, the municipality will have the manpower and equipment to handle many day-to-day maintenance tasks. The municipality also has access to funding streams that may not be available to a volunteer-based nonprofit organization. On the other hand, municipal budgets can be strained, priorities change and so do administrations. When a municipality is faced with the tough decisions of which services to provide and which to cut, the trail project may be short-changed. In these cases it may be up to the volunteers and friends organization to pick-up the slack.
Memoranda of Understanding
Public-private partnerships for trail management and maintenance are very common. Many such partnerships have been formed with a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement (MOU or MOA) as their only legal agreement. Examples of partnerships formed for management and maintenance of a trail include these:
- between several municipalities
- between municipality and a volunteer friends group
- between several friends groups
- between a land conservancy or other non-governmental organization and a friends group
- between any, all of the above and more!
An MOU is usually not limited to maintenance issues, but often addresses management as well. It is not uncommon for a friends group to start a trail by convincing a municipality to purchase the corridor, after which the friends group accepts management of the trail and coordinates the maintenance of the trail via municipal equipment and volunteers. The following sample agreement demonstrates successful partnerships formed between various local public agencies and private trail groups:
Leases & Easements
A crucial aspect of trail management is the handling of easements, leases and licenses granted both by and to trail managers. A large number of sample easements are available which pertain to trails that intersect private property. Various types of sample easements are available through the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.
Conversely, trails can be asked for easements which allow others to use, share or cross the trail. The most common requests include utility easements and farm crossings. Examples include:
- Sample Power Easement
Read a sample easement in which a non-profit trail group grants a power company an easement to install and maintain power lines on a portion of the rail corridor.
- Sample Sewer Easement
Read a sample easement in which a non-profit trail group grants an easement across the trail to an individual adjacent landowner so that the landowner can have a sewer line built under the trail.
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