The Trail Building Iceberg

What goes into building a trail?

Creating inspiring trails on public land involves more work than people think.

It starts with the Initial dream of a Trail concept. Often it begins on a ride or hike with friends, and the thought, ‘What if we could go THERE!’, or ‘What this trail needs is THIS feature’. Thus begins the scheming……

The next step is usually mapping. We use contemporary digital trail mapping software – and our team of map nerds has a long addictive relationship with historic printed maps, including the Pikes Peak Atlas among many other historic maps.

Normally the MedWheel team then meets with the relevant land manager and other partners that are stakeholders on the property, to learn their viewpoint about new trail possibilities.

We always make a thorough on-the-ground assessment of the potential property on foot, to identify the control points (points of interest that we know we want to visit) as well as any problem spots that the trail needs to avoid.

Every trail requires multiple visits – to propose an alignment, examine the soil composition and conditions, identify drainage areas measure the grade, consider the trail experience…. and then revise, review, and rethink.

Many trail concepts lie on public lands where a Master Plan is in effect or will be required. Typically MedWheel participates in Master Plan processes as a stakeholder. This means we provide expert input on the plan, to help meet community needs and determine the best balance between our conservation values and the recreation desires of trail user.

Whether a Master Plan is needed or not, we must always consider the viewpoints of neighbors who might have concerns about the presence of a trail and the impacts of trail users.

If a Master Plan process is initiated, MedWheel always participates fully in the process, providing a range of trail feedback for consideration, as well as management suggestions for the property.

MedWheel doesn’t own property, and so we always require approval of the trail being considered. Concept approval from the land manager is an important and often time-consuming step in the process.

Once a project has support from a land manager we begin the project planning phase – determining the resources needed for the new trail, construction strategy, and timing of the project. The scope of the planning phase depends on the complexity of the trail.

Volunteer recruitment is an ongoing part of our work – we welcome new volunteers and returning Trail Lovers! Most of our work is done by volunteers LIKE YOU – please join us!

When considering Master Planned projects, there is always substantial negotiations during the master plan revision process. As we seek approval for our ideas, we leverage our relationships built with decision makers like the C.Springs TOPS working committee, the Parks Advisory Board, city council, county commissioners, and other elected and appointed leaders.

All of our work makes use of specialized tools – hand tools like shovels, picks, Mcleods, pulaskis etc, as well as mechanical construction devices like the Big Pony. Maintenance and repair of tools is a year-round process.

Fundraising, budgeting, and scheduling of our Dig Dates are the typical final steps of the ‘behind the scenes’ work that we complete before we actually start moving dirt.

THEN THE FUN BEGINS! After all of these steps we are finally ready to get into the actual physical construction and maintenance on a trail. This is the part of the process that everyone sees.