The fear that many land owners have when considering developing recreational trails is the impact this will have on the commercial viability of their current land use e.g. forestry, grazing, water catchment etc.

Whilst these fears are understandable, with the right approach it is more than possible to develop trails with minimal impact on land use, and where land use has minimal impact on the trails. This is something which is a major part of our 'Sustainability Framework', which underpins all our recreational trail designs.

The key is to start out by creating a frame of reference with land owners and managers which will guide the rest of the project and will establish issues such as aims and objectives, the status of any trail development, current land use and recreational use etc. 

In a great deal of cases official trail development takes place to manage unsanctioned recreation on land, which is impacting upon land use, the aim being to resolve these issues. For example, when considering unsanctioned trails in a commercial forestry setting, it is very difficult for foresters to predict the flow of recreational users when the trails are unsanctioned and as forestry can present a hazard to the public, this can affect the liability of the land owners and managers in terms of reducing risk to the public. 

When official trails are put in place, it is much easier to manage the flow of users and to establish diversions and trail closures for the time required for forestry operations. In addition, the trails are protected by their official status - when harvesting takes place, measures are taken to protect any parts of the trails which could be impacted upon, and during the design process, measures are taken to ensure the sustainability of these trails in every sense e.g. raised trails structures placed on top of the land will be greatly impacted upon, whereas it is much less likely that an effective bench cut, designed with harvesting in mind will be damaged.

The same is true for any type of property or land use. Establishing the Frame of Reference on an individual basis for each project is wholly important, there is no such thing as successful trails when taking a 'cookie cutter' approach - each property and its issues are different.

So once again, the point is this - a prescriptive and considered approach to trail development set within the context of a Frame of Reference agreed upon by stakeholders is the way to go about getting THE RIGHT TRAILS, IN THE RIGHT PLACES, IN THE RIGHT WAY.

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