Spring is certainly in the air. This winter has been unusually mild around much of the country, and many regions are experiencing spring-like temperatures much earlier than usual.
According to recent news stories, the early arrival of the season has also meant some trail groups are getting an early start on their spring cleaning.
Last week, city crews in Morgantown, W.Va., started their post-winter trail maintenance on the Caperton Trail.
"The city's parks and rail-trails are a desirable destination for many people, and due to the warm winter have been used more regularly," reported a local news station, adding that the extra traffic meant "trash and debris along the banks of the Monongahela River are more prevalent than usual during the final days of the season."
Being able to tidy up rails and park areas earlier in the year actually benefits the city in a number of ways, as work crews are able to clear the debris easier without having to work around spring vegetation.
In Vernon, Conn., the Vernon Greenways Volunteers will begin their regular clean-ups earlier than usual this year. The local group, which partners with the town's parks and recreation department to help maintain 30-plus miles of trail, is modeled after the Adopt-A-Highway program, and is funded by donations from local individuals and businesses.
These news stories illustrate how two communities have addressed a critical trail development issue: maintenance. After a trail is constructed, regular maintenance is needed to help ensure it is safe for trail users and well-used for years to come.
Typically, a trail is maintained by a municipality, nonprofit organization or volunteer group--or a partnership that involves some combination of the three. For instance, the Caperton Trail is maintained by a local municipality--the Morgantown Public Works Department. On the other hand, the trails in Vernon are maintained by a public-private partnership between the town's parks and recreation department and a group of local volunteers.
An effective tool for developing such partnerships is the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement (MOU or MOA), outlining the responsibilities of each party, including maintenance and management and any other pertinent issues.
With maintenance plans in place, these communities were able to be proactive--taking advantage of this mild winter to get their spring cleaning out of the way.
For more information and resources on trail maintenance, visit the "Management and Maintenance" section of RTC's Trail-Building Toolbox.