2018 Sustainable Trails Conference

Roanoke, WV // Core Conference, March 26 - 28, 2018

Pre-Conference workshops, March 23-25 // Post-Conference Workshops, March 28-30

Pictures courtesy of Jérôme Pelland, Sentiers Boréals, and Aaryn Kay, PTBA. Check out more pictures on the PTBA Facebook Conference Photo Gallery


PTBA's 2018 Sustainable Trails Conference brought together 175 professional trailbuilders, land managers, trail volunteers, and trail advocates for 3 days of education, networking, and trail fun!  Trail industry exhibitors demonstrated and shared their products indoors and outdoors, and 66 participants joined PTBA workshops for in-depth and field-based learning.  Thanks to the Federal Highways Adminstration, WV. Department of Transportation, Tri-State Trails, and Happy Trails for support through sponsorship!

The  2018 Concurrent and Seminar Sessions were organized by 4 Tracks:


NOTE: Conference Sessions are summarized below.  An orange hyperlink indicates that the speaker has shared their presentation for publication on the PTBA website. 

Plenary Sessions

PTBA State of Trails - 2018 - A Visual Tour, Jon Underwood, Happy Trails Inc, PTBA President
Trail TED Talks - Policy - Deb Caffin, Trails Program Leader, USDA Forest Service, Southern Region
Trail TED Talks - Practice - Mark Schmidt, Lead Trails Analyst, Parks Canada

Concurrent Sessions: Technical Trailbuilding Skills

Introduction to Mechanized Trailbuilding
Charlie Dundas, Tri-State Trails, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session A, Monday, March 26, 10:05 am - 11:20 am
One skilled machine operator and the right machine can do the work of many hand laborers in a fraction of the time. In a dollars and cents world, machines can save you time and money on any given trail project. But an un-trained machine operator can do a lot of damage in no time. This introductory session will explore mechanized equipment, how to choose the right machines for the right jobs, and how to ensure that your operators get the training that they need.

Stone structures for pedestrian trails
Erin Amadon, Peter S. Jensen & Associates LLC, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session B, Monday, March 26, 2:30 - 3:45 pm
Stone work is not for everyone, but for those with patience, attention to detail, a hard work ethic, and a general love for puzzles, stone work can be one of the most rewarding forms of trail work. Explore the various stone structures which can be used in trail construction. Topics will include ideal rock size and shapes for structures, safe transportation methods, and construction techniques for stone structures. 

Taking Great Photos of Great Trailwork
Andrew Mueller, Elevated Trail Design, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session C, Monday, March 26, 4-5:15 pm
Taking great photos of trails can be a challenge! Bad lighting and limited contrast are just two possible pitfalls. This session will discuss the benefits of quality photos. We will explore key photography concepts including Lighting, Composition, & Exposure. We will cover the do's and don't's of photography, especially as they relate to trails. Lastly, we will talk about digital editing options and strategies.

Is Rigging Right for you?
Lester C. Kenway, Trail Services LLC, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session E, Tuesday, March 27, 1:30 - 2:45 pm
This session will present information about the safe use of Griphoist ® wire rope machines and their applications for moving materials for building trails. Power-point slides will illustrate Griphoist® products, safety guidelines, safe working loads, tools and accessories, as well as photos and descriptions of both simple ( dragging and lifting) and highly complex systems (High lines” and multi-line pulls). The presentation will provide examples of the various uses of rigging systems used to move materials up-slope, down-slope and across slopes.

Tools of the Trailbuilding Trade
Jerome Pelland, Sentiers Trails, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session G, Wednesday, March 28, 8:30 -9:15 am
This session presents the new products, innovative ways to use tools, and other secret tricks of the professional builders. 

Hybrid Contracting
Ryan Spates, S&S Trails, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session H: Wednesday, March 28, 10:15 - 11:30 am

Combining the efforts of volunteers, youth corps and/or agency crews with the expertise and "heavy lift" ability of contractors is commonly know as "Hybrid Contacting.” This session will examine the technical side of creating teaming agreements/contractual arrangements, as well as case studies with successful outcomes and lessons learned from less successful projects. 

Concurrent Sessions: Trailbuilding Basics

Sustainable Trails 101
Michael Osborne, Five Rivers MetroParks
Concurrent Session B, Monday, March 26, 2;30 - 3:45 pm
The challenges of balancing ecological protection, physical management and social demands on natural surface hiking, equestrian, mountain biking and multi-use trails can be overwhelming. However, it is possible to meet these challenges by creating sustainable trails that are designed to last into the next century. We'll cover the critical components and processes necessary for truly sustainable trail design and construction, along with engaging all your agency departments, stakeholders, user groups and volunteers.

Sustainable Trails 102
Jon Underwood, Happy Trails AK, PTBA Board President
Concurrent Session C, Monday, March 26, 4-5:15 pm
Follow-up Sustainable Trails 101 with this session for a complete overview! What are the practical parts and pieces to designing a sustainable trail on the ground? In this session, we will cover 8 basic elements of practical sustainable trail design for natural surface trails, from planning to water control to maintenance.  

Bridges 101
Charlie Dundas, Tri-State Trails, PTBA Secretary
Concurrent Session D, Tuesday, March 27, 8:30 - 9:45 am

Introduction to the basic types of trail and pedestrian bridges by Tri-State Company, Inc. Includes discussion of the basic considerations of bridge design. Descussion of site selection, the "physics of bridge functioning", dead load, live load, and moment of load. The presentation includes photos, drawings, and animations. 

The Biz of Trailbuilding, Pro Panel
Moderated by Lora Woolner, True North Trails
Concurrent Session F, Tuesday, March 27,  3:15 - 4:30 pm
This roundtable discussion will be a moderated discussion with opportunity for Q&A. Topics will include buying equipment, taxes, insurance, business structure, amortization of eqipment, cash flow and more! Join the conversation and get started on the Trailbuilder 'MBA'.

Trail Crew Safety and Tailgate Safety Talk
Robert Fina, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
Concurrent Session G, Wednesday, March 28, 8:30 -9:15 am
Most land managers require a tailgate safety talk before volunteer trail crews start work. This session will cover all the necessary topics to include from knowing the nearest road acces, an evacuation plan, weather report, proper clothing, hazard analysis, PPE, safe tool transport & leaving the site safe. This session is a must for all crew leaders working with volunteers!

Stages of Design and Layout
Jon Underwood, Happy Trails AK, PTBA Board President
Concurrent Session H, Wednesday, March 28, 10:15 - 11:30 am
You need money to commission a good trail design. But you need a trail design before you ask for money. And you need a design before you can get permission from a land manager to build a trail. But you need permission from the land manager before you spend money on a design! How do you solve this chicken-and-egg dilemma? What are the strategies to get you to a good design? What comprises a construction-ready layout? In this session we will answer these questions and help you figure out how to bring a great trail to life.

Concurrent Sessions: Science & Policy 

Forest Service National Sustainable Trail Strategy
Matt Able, Trails and Dispersed Recreation Program Manager, Daniel Boone National Forest
Concurrent Session A, Monday, March 26, 10:05 am - 11:20 am
Concurrent Session G, Wednesday, March 28, 8:30 -9:15 am

Join this session to learn about the new Forest Service National Sustainable Trail Strategy and how it will impact partners and PTBA members. We will review of how the strategy came to be, how it outlines the future direction of trails and trail maintenance on National Forest lands, and what the strategy means for our partner organizations.  Session will include opportunity for question and answer.

Recreation Ecology: Current Research for Sustainable Trail and Camping Management
a. Campsite Science: Developing an Empirical Basis for Assessing the Sustainability of Campsites
Jeff Marion, Recreation Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Virginia Tech Field Unit
Concurrent Session B, Monday, March 26, 2;30 - 3:45 pm
This session presents state-of-knowledge findings and management implications from recreation ecology research in laymen’s terms. We’ll explore the latest research on trail and campsite sustainability, specifically, how can managers design, construct, and maintain trails and campsites that will sustain heavy visitation while remaining in good condition with limited maintenance. We’ll examine the traditional tools (site design and management, regulation, education) and explore some innovative solutions like using computers to identify sustainable trail alignments and campsites and smartphone apps to navigate trails to

Basic Soil Mechanics for Trailbuilders
Alex Man, PhD, PEng, Geological Engineer/Trail Designer
Concurrent Session C:  Monday, March 26, 4:00 - 5:15 pm
Soil types vary widely all over the world - and even on a single trail!  Understanding the physical characteristics of soil and having the ability to categorize soil is VERY important to successful trailbuilding.  This session will provide trailbuilders with applicable knowledge of soil including soil description, grain size distribution and its measurement, clay plasticity, and compaction curves and the importance of water.

Applying Recreation Ecology Science to the Sustainable Management of National Scenic Trail
a. Trail Science: Developing and Empirical Basis for Sustainable Trail Alignment

b. Article: Resolving Visitor Impact Management Problems on the Appalachian Trail:  Sustainable Camping Management at Hawk Mountain – A Collaboration Success
Johanna Arredondo and Fletcher Meadema, Virginia Tech Graduate students, and Jeff Marion, U.S. Geological Survey, VT Field Station
Concurrent Session D:  Tuesday, March 27, 8:30 - 9:45 am
This session presents current recreation ecology research on two large federally-funded studies examining common visitor resource impacts along the Appalachian and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails. We highlight new research findings related to trail and campsite conditions and describe core management implications for enhancing sustainability. Key findings reveal the merits of shifting visitor use to side-hill trails and campsites. Such positions are inherently sustainable because the topography spatially concentrates and constrains traffic to minimize the “footprint” of resource impact.

Concurrent Sessions: Specific Strategies & Case Studies

Planning and Development of Sustainable Urban Bike Parks (Pro-Panel Q&A)
Moderated by Tim Babcock, Progressive Trail Ramps, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session A, Monday, March 26, 10:05 am - 11:20 am
This interactive Q& A session will engage some of the world’s best bike park developers.  Topics will include: What is an Urban Bike Park, the planning process, structuring bids and RFP’s to ensure qualified responses, sustainable design/build methods, Urban Bike Park maintenance, overcoming common objections to Urban Bike Parks through education, the return on investment (ROI) and the broad range of users in Urban Bike Parks, and making Urban Bike Parks a staple in our communities.

Connecting Communities: Integrating Transportation & Recreation Networks
Christopher Douwes, Federal Highways Administration (Conference Co-Sponsor)
The Federal Highway Administration’s transportation programs can help create safe, accessible, attractive, and environmentally sensitive communities where people want to live, work, and recreate. Additionally, federal transportation funds benefit recreation including hiking, bicycling, in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road motorcycling, all-terrain vehicle riding, four-wheel driving, or using other off-road motorized vehicles. Join this session to learn about current FHWA tools and resources!

Breaking down the Silos: Building Trail Community in Unexpected Ways
Mike Passo, Executive Director, American Trails
Concurrent Session D, Tuesday, March 27, 8:30 - 9:45 am
American Trails has launched an initiative to bring together the trails community with the goal is to amplify the voice of a diverse trails community. Current members include PTBA, American Hiking Society, Back Country Horsemen of American, NOHVCC, IMBA, Tread Lightly, and the Rails To Trails Conservancy. Learn about Trails Move People and join the discussion to help further this comprehensive initiative!

Sustainable Trail Development and Education in Patagonia: A Case Study in Perito Moreno National Park
Jed Talbot, OBP Trailworks, LLC, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session E, Tuesday, March 27, 1:30 - 2:45 pm
An ambitious recreational trail and infrastructure development project in a remote area of Argentine Patagonia features an extensive system of loops and long distance trails and huts are being constructed with assistance of over 100 people. PTBA member Jed Talbot is coordinating a team of trail experts from the United States, designing trail and training local crews and National Park Staff from all regions of Patagonia. The result is the most extensive recreational trails development and training effort in Patagonian history. 

Pumptrack - from your backyard to world class infrastructure
Jerome Pelland, Sentiers Trails, PTBA Member
Concurrent Session F, Tuesday, March 27,  3:15 - 4:30 pm
This presentation cover the basic principles of design & construction of pumptrack.  We will explore what takes a backyard pumptrack to world class infrastructure, including case studies of some of the best pumptrack in North America. 

Taking Trails from Good to Great, The Value of Trails in Canada`s National Parks
Mark Schmidt Trails Advisor - Visitor Experience Infrastructure, Parks Canada
Concurrent Session  H, Wednesday, March 28, 10:15 - 11:30 am
Consider your favorite view or a memorable experience in the outdoors, or that feeling you had when you completed a long hike or ride. Chances are that many of your memories were created on a trail. Successful trails lead visitors to discover, learn and experience our best places, and do so with minimal impact to the environment and minimal resources. Mark Schmidt will discuss the value of trails and present on Parks Canada`s trail principles. He will share how combining these values and principles have helped Parks Canada move their trails from good to great.