Trail Policies

Trail Policies

Over the past several meetings I’ve discussed various Trail Topics to help spread trail advocacy.  The board has also provided a forum to discuss these topics with staff. 

Tonight I’d like to speak about trail policies.  My understanding is that Midpen’s trail policies date mostly from around 1993, with some selective updates more recently.  One aspect that hasn’t changed is the general hierarchy of hiking-only, hiking-equestrian, and full multi-use trails.  This policy doesn’t reflect most modern thinking about multi-user trail system management.  In my opinion, as Midpen builds out Measure AA projects, it’s important to re-think the trail policies to make sure they reflect the best modern understanding of trail system design.

I want to use some information from California State Parks to illustrate some of these points.  I’ve shown the State Parks mission statement at top right.  In my opinion it’s very consistent with Midpen’s mission.  One interesting aspect is that it’s explicit that the recreation opportunities should be high quality.  State Parks began a process of completely updating its trail policies around 2007, to reflect improvements that were pioneered by many other land managers and private agencies.  This finally led to a fully updated Trails Handbook published in 2019. 

Reading the State Parks Trails Handbook, it’s clear that a critical part of high quality is that the trails are purpose-built.  The handbook is explicit that unpaved roads are a separate element and while they may play a part in the system, they don’t provide the high quality experiences that trails do. 

As the handbook says, “A trail is more than a route to a desired destination; it is an experience”

This is consistent with the feedback I’ve been giving in previous meetings.  As I’ve mentioned in my comments, State Parks is clear in their trail maps about trails and roads. 

Another key aspect of the Handbook is the approach to multi-use.  At the lower right you can see a possible layout of a multi-user trail system.  Many modern designs are using this style to optimize hiking, biking and equestrian experiences.  A fine example in our area is Glenwood Preserve in Scotts Valley, where a hiking/biking system and a hiking/equestrian system are laid out on opposite sides of the preserve.  Similar approaches are used in the design proposals for Cotoni-Coast Dairies and San Vicente Redwoods.  All of these preserves share very similar conservation values with Midpen and will provide excellent trail experiences for all users.

In my opinion these are great ideas to incorporate into Midpen’s trail policies.

Thanks for your time and the opportunity to speak.  I’ll return with another trail topic soon.

These comments were provided to the Midpen Board of Directors during the public comment portion of their September 22, 2021 meeting.