Volunteer Training & Education

The Fundy Hiking Trail Association works with its volunteers to build capacity and trails! Our volunteers contribute to the FHTA in many different ways, from maintaining 3 km sections of trail, to participating in group trail maintenance outings, to writing articles for our newsletter, to editing our website!  If you have a skill that you would like to lend, we’ll put it to use! Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering.

Below you will find trail maintenance tips.  These are the types of activities that our volunteers commonly undertake when maintaining their adopted section of trail, or during group trail maintenance outings.

Trail Maintenance

Trail users may not be able to articulate what a “perfect” trail looks like, but almost everyone can list the characteristics of a “bad” trail:

  1. Deep Trenching – The trail is sunken such that hikers feel like they’re walking in the bottom half of a pipe and equestrians drag their spurs.
  2. Widening – The trail has widened from a single or double track to an unsightly wilderness “freeway” of multiple parallel tracks, all trenched to a different degree.
  3. Short Cuts – Knowing that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, users create a web of trails, most of which are steep and erosive.
  4. Tripping Hazards – Regular use and erosion ultimately expose tree roots and rocks.
  5. Steepness – If a trail is too steep over a long distance one of two things will happen: either people won’t use it, or users will not enjoy their excursion.
  6. Impact to Natural / Cultural Resources – Erosive trails and multiple trails compound the impact that trails have on rare plants and on archaeological sites.

 Causes

All of these problems can be tied to one or more of the following three causes:

  1. Water is the foremost cause of trail problems. The movement of water causes erosion and deep trenches. It also exposes tripping hazards.
  2. Poor Initial Trail Design can rarely be overcome, even by regular maintenance.
  3. Inadequate or Inappropriate Maintenance wastes valuable crew time and can sometimes increase trail problems.

Pruning

Pruning vegetation is an essential and regular part of trail maintenance, multi-use trails should have 10′ vertical and 8′ horizontal clearance (though there will be exceptions for the sake of protecting a tree or skirting around a large boulder).Too often, trail pruning is accomplished in the most expeditious manner possible — a branch intrudes within the walking space of the trail and is quickly lopped-off so that it doesn’t intrude and the debris is indescriminantly tossed aside. However, our goal in trail maintenance is to maintain a trail in as natural appearance as possible. A quick pruning job deals only with the function of trail maintenance, not the aesthetics.

There are 6 elements of acceptable pruning. Each of these elements makes pruning a more tedious maintenance task, but results with a trail that is compatible with the natural environment.

  1. Do not toss debris! Branches that are randomly discarded usually end up hanging in adjacent shrubs or trees. These dead branches are both unsightly and create a fire hazard.
  2. Place debris out of view. This element requires the extra effort of dragging branches under and around shrubs.
  3. Place the butt (cut) end away from the trail. This will help disguise the debris.
  4. Each cut branch should be touching the ground to promote decomposition. This means that brush piles are not appropriate.
  5. Pruning should be done sensitively so that the trail appears natural and not as if a chain saw just blasted through. Trail users should not be aware that any maintenance work has recently been done.
  6. Prune to the collar of any branch stem for the health of the shrub and a more natural looking result. At the base of any branch there is a wide section that contains a plant’s natural healing agents. Any pruning performed away from this collar will expose the plant to a greater risk of infection. A cut at the collar will naturally heal. For large branches over 2″ in diameter, cut from the bottom, then cut down from the top. This prevents tearing of the bark, reducing infection.

Blazing

  1. Our “standard” blazing method is: Blue blazes for regular trail, White blazes for side trails to lookouts or access points, and yellow blazes for loop trails
  2. When available, use pre-cut and drilled vinyl 5 cm x 15 cm (2″ x 6″) blazes. Otherwise, use latex exterior paint. Carry paint in a sealed jar or small can, and scrape away loose bark before applying paint.
  3. Always use aluminum nails (aluminum nails will not hurt machinery operators if the tree is harvested at some future date)
  4. Always leave the nails protruding from the tree about one half inch (as the tree grows, it will use this space and if the blaze is nailed on tightly, the tree will actually pop it off very quickly)
  5. Try to pick large, healthy-looking trees for blazes
  6. Always make sure that the next blaze is within view when standing next to a blaze; do not over blaze
  7. It is best to blaze in one direction at a time, rather than both directions at once
  8. Avoid putting two blazes on opposite sides of the same tree–if the tree falls over, both blazes are lost
  9. Never nail blazes to power poles (if necessary to blaze a power pole, it should be painted on as aluminum blazes will interfere with people who climb poles for repairs if it is a pole which must be climbed to make repairs)
  10. If painting on a light-coloured surface such as a power pole, use a brown border around the blaze