Land sustainability and good stewardship of the natural areas in which we design, build and promote trails use is a core value of Valley Life Recreation (VLR). The purpose of our trails will not be to harm the region in which they are built, but to celebrate the natural environment through which they travel.
Specific to the plans VLR has for the Squirrel Hills Trail Park, the trails are being designed, and will be constructed, to maximize the user’s connection to the natural environment. Aesthetics of what the user is seeing and the movement they are feeling as they travel through the forest is of utmost importance.
In order to maximize this experience, the trails must be designed in a sustainable fashion that preserves and enhances the natural environment.
For example, mature trees will be preserved and will guide the turns in the trails. Minimal vegetation will be disturbed as the trail weaves through the taller trees. We will use state-of-the-art sustainable trail construction practices to prevent erosion and minimize maintenance requirements. This includes using construction techniques such as grade reversals, out-sloping and adhering to the “half rule”. Grade reversals break up pitches along a trail and shed water off the trail more frequently than a trail without them. They also greatly enhance the user’s experience by creating a trail that “surfs” a given side slope. Out-sloping directs water perpendicular to the trail axis to shed water in the shortest distance possible. The half rule means that we will not create a trail that is steeper than half of the existing side slope. This blends the trail into the environment and prevents the formation of deep erosion trenches that are common with steep fall-line trails. It also creates more enjoyable grades for a wider range of ages and abilities.
The proposed Squirrel Hills Trail Park development will also make use of a former landfill area. As such, we are turning a brownfield site into a natural park environment. As designers, we appreciate the need to protect the landfill cap and will use raised tread trail construction practices that will not compromise the integrity of the cover system.
~ Alex Man (PhD, PEng) and the Board of Valley Life Recreation