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Trails Policy - Draft 12/6/2009
Trails Policy of New York - New Jersey Trails Conference
D R A F T based on Version Approved by Board, August 21, 2001
- Practices and procedures have been moved to the Trail Management Guide
- Potentially inflammatory statements about bikes or horses have been removed
- Added trail or volunteer staff members to the members of Trails Council (Section 3.2)
- Editorial changes from John Mack, Daniel Chazin and others
Issues that need addressing
- Mountain bikes single tracks (section 2.2)
- Section 2.2 "rules of the trail" (perhaps delete)
- In section 3.5 pick who appoints trails chairs: executive director|board chair|Trails Council chair
- See Daniel Chazin's comment.
- HT maintainers on co-aligned sections [separate|shared|by agreement]
Table of Contents
- Conference Trails
- Trails Council
- Trail Management Guide
- Cooperative Management Agreements and Easements
- Emergency Preparedness
Section 1 Overview
People seek an outdoor experience as a respite from the trappings and tensions of life and should be able to enjoy the natural peace and beauty of the lands through which trails pass.
The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (Conference) is a nonprofit organization established in 1920 for the construction, maintenance, and preservation of hiking trails. The Conference maintains hiking trails in a trail system which extends south into Hunterdon County along the Highlands Trail in New Jersey, north to NY Route 23 in the South Taconics and along the Long Path to the Mohawk River, west to the Delaware River and the blue line in the Catskills, and east to the Massachusetts, Connecticut and Nassau lines.
Trails are the Conference's core program. In addition to building and maintaining trails, the Conference seeks to protect the trail lands from indiscriminate and inappropriate misuse. The Conference works in close cooperation with various governmental agencies and nonprofits in the region and is the only coordinating organization for hiking trails in its area.
The Trails Council is a committee established under the bylaws of the Conference. Volunteers who are members of the Conference and of its affiliated member organizations carry out the work of Trails Council on and for the trails. Trails Council receives administrative and on the ground support from the Conference's staff.
Section 2 ConferenceTrails
A trail is a defined pathway primarily intended to be used for recreational travel. It may or may not be marked; it generally will not be paved or otherwise improved, except as is consistent with the need for safety, preservation of the resource and its environment, or to be handicapped accessible. A hiking trail is intended for foot traffic only. Multiple use trails are those trails which are suitable for other uses in addition to hiking, e.g. horses, mountain bikes, bicycles, etc. Non-motorized use trails do not allow motorized use, such as ATVs, four wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles,etc. Snowmobiles, although motorized vehicles, are usable only in the winter and when trails are covered with snow. Since they can be used only during a limited season, their use on hiking trails is not necessarily inconsistent with the status of these trails as foot trails, and snowmobiles may be allowed on some hiking trails on a case-by-case basis.
The Conference primarily is a voice for hikers and does not advocate for every trail related activity. Conference trails are trails which are managed and maintained under the auspices of the Conference. Hiking, handicapped access, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are considered foot travel. By federal law, the Appalachian Trail(AT) is restricted to foot traffic only, except in a few places where grandfather clauses and special use permits allow horses.
The Conference will not maintain trails in areas that charge an entrance fee, restrict use to members only, or require a permit except with there commendation from Trails Council and approval of the Board of Directors. A parking fee (such as in Harriman Park) is not considered an entrance fee since there is no charge if a hiker enters the park on foot or by public transportation.
The Conference will not sign trail use agreements indemnifying other organizations except with Board approval.
Trails should afford an appropriate and satisfying outdoor experience to the widest possible segment of the population. The Conference recognizes there are appropriate places for non- motorized users and supports the concept that trails on public land should be available to all responsible non‑motorized users. It is the park manager's decision to determine allowed uses, though the Conference may offer recommendations and guidance.
Communication and cooperation among the user groups, landowners, and land managers enhances the outdoor recreation opportunities. The Conference is willing to work withnon-motorized trail user groups that share its concern for the region's trailsystems and its appreciation for the special character of the lands through which the trails pass. Hiking only trails should be available within all trail systems open to the public.
The Conference endorses the rules of the trail for safe and fair trail use summarized on our web pages developed by many trail user groups such as IMBA, Rails to Trails, ski areas, etc.
The Conference supports the concept of off trail use for orienteering and geocaching with the landowner's permission and following their guidelines.
Fair and reasonable access to trails on public land should be based on the following principles:
Management - While the establishment and continuity of trails is ultimately the responsibility of the land managers or owners, volunteer user organizations should actively assist land managers in planning trails and trail systems. User groups should be responsible for building, monitoring, and maintaining the trails they use to appropriate standards to protect the resource from likely damage by their users as well as nature. For a multi-use trail, user groups should cooperate to determine who manages that trail and by what standards. Long term commitment to public trail management is necessary to sustain such trails as a recreational opportunity.
Resource Protection Trail use should entail minimal damage to the treadway and minimal disruption of plant and animal life. When planning new trails, the purpose of the trail, the terrain through which it travels and the trail use density should be considered. Alterations to the terrain should only be made to prevent resource damage or alleviate dangerous conditions. When trails deteriorate, they should be assessed as to whether moving is a better alternative than repairing. The Conference opposes the use of mountain bikes or horses in areas designated or being considered for designation as wilderness or natural areas or on dedicated hiking trails. In the Catskills, one wilderness area is an exception and permits mountain bikes.
Safety: Steep and or narrow trails should be single use and be appropriately signed so the user can accept the risk. Need to address issue of single track mountain bike trails. Multi‑use trails must be appropriately wide enough to allow safe passing and two‑way use, and should have sufficient sight lines to avoid collision. Even though collisions are rare, it is important to convey a perception of safety. Safety information and educational material, including signs indicating permitted uses, help to ensure the safety of all trail users.
Section 3 Trails Council
As stated in Article 6.1 of the Conference bylaws
"The Trails Council is a committee of peers consisting of the Chair of the Council, the chairs of each of the regional trail committees, and others as specified in the Trails Policy. Each regional chair is appointed by the Chair of the Board and approved by the Board. The regional committees follow the Trails Policy developed by the Council."
Within the jurisdiction of the Conference, Trails Council is responsible for
- Protecting, maintaining, and constructing trails and shelters according to trail and maintenance standards as detailed in the Trail Management Guide..
- Monitoring any land or easements
- Approving all major trail relocations
- Giving preliminary approval of trail systems, co-alignments, and AT management plans
- Providing training for trail volunteers
- Approving conference affiliated trails (see section 4.13)
- Providing guidance to the board and staff relative to trail issues
- Submitting a consolidated budget on time
- Compliance with restrictions placed by land managers such as NY State DEC
- Maintain records of meetings, trail approvals and other documentation
- Coordinate with other committees as appropriate to smooth the operation of the Conference
- Other duties as assigned by the Board
Issues requiring Board approval are:
- Changes to the Trail Policy except for material in the appendices.
- Issues which significantly change existing policies, e.g. acceptance of a multiple-use trail or section of multi-use trail that was previously foot travel only.
- Issues related to legal matters
- Issues requiring significant expenditures other than those provided for in the budget
- Adoption of any new trail(s) or trail system which is with a new partner in an area where the Conference does not already maintain trails. For example, a trail(s) in a new county park in a county where the Conference already maintains trails do not need board approval.
- Adoption of a trail system that could have significant impact on Conference resources
- Requests for maintaining a trail in areas that charge an entrance fee, is restricted to members only, or require a permit.
- Requests for co-alignment of another organization's trails on trails the Conference maintains, pending approval of the landowner or land manager.
- Signing trail use agreements indemnifying other organizations.
- Local management plans for the AT and then submitted to ATC.
Members of Trails Council must be members of the Conference. Members with a vote include:
- Chair of Trails Council, appointed by the Chair of the Trail Conference Board of Directors, subject to the approval of the Trail Conference Board. (as per the Conference by laws Article 6, section 6.1)
- The chairs of the regional trail committees, Trail Conference supervisors, corridor managers, AT overseers, and trail crew chiefs.
- Staff members whose primary responsibility are trails or volunteers
- Other volunteers and staff working on trail issues as determined by the Council chair.
The Trails Council chair may appoint any other officers that are necessary, such as secretary or vice chair.
At least one member of Trails Council, known as the Board Liaison for Trails, must be a Conference board member. The chair and the board liaison can the same person.
The meetings of the Trails Council shall be open to all interested parties. Voting members are encouraged to attend. Trails chairs of maintaining clubs, maintainers, monitors and trail crew members are particularly welcome. Meetings will be held bi-monthly unless prevented by extenuating circumstances.
A quorum of 12 voting members is required to transact official business. Decisions are usually reached by consensus of those present. Any of the regional trails chairs may call for a formal vote of Trails Council members. In any such vote, the majority is determinative except when there are four or more dissenting votes.In the latter case, the issue will be referred to the Board for final resolution with both majority and minority opinions being submitted.
3.5 Operational Responsibilities
After consultation with trail staff and Trails Council Chair, the [executive director|board chair|Trails Council chair] appoints regional trails chairs. (According to the 2004 bylaws, the board chair appoints and the board approves. The Board of Directors approved in 2009, who appoints the regional trails chairs. Once the bylaws are changed, this sentence and the previous two sentences can be removed.
Regional trail committees are responsible for the management and maintenance of trails within their region and to interact with the land managers. A meeting at least once a year should be held with the officials of the parks within that region. Each regional trails chair should submit a list of supervisors to their park partners. A list of regional trail committeesis in Appendix A, which does not need board approval to be changed.
Members of a regional trail committee include the regional trails chair, supervisors, overseers, corridor manager, trail crew chiefs and any other supervisory volunteers such as assistant chair, assistant supervisors or outreach coordinator.
It is recommended that a regional trail committee meet at least once a year to plan, submit budget, and discuss trail management problems. This meeting may or may not include partners and is in addition to one-on-one meetings with a park manager.
Section 4 TrailManagement Guide
The Trail Management Guide spells out guidelines, and procedures for management of Conference trails, including but not limited to:
- Trail assessment
- Trail standards
- Expected nd recommended maintainer trail visitation frequency
- Appointments, resignations, and removal of trail volunteers
- Requests for relocations, temporary closings, abandonment, reopening
- Notification of changes
- Emergency preparedness procedures
- Conference affiliated trails
- Forms for any of the above
- Volunteer policies
- Grants the Trail Conference offers
The Conference offers training workshops for trail maintainers, AT monitors, assessors, and chain sawyers. Before assignment or relatively shortly after, trail maintainers are to receive training from their supervisor and preferably also supplemented, before or after, by attending Trail Maintenance 101. Trails chairs receive orientation from staff and the Trails Council chair. Supervisors receive orientation from staff and regional trailschairs.
Roundtables are held annually for supervisors, trail crew chiefs, and regional trails chairs. Supervisor roundtables are held regionally, the others are Conference wide.
Anyone using a chainsaw is required to be certified through an OSHA approved course and have first aid training and certification which include blood pathogen training. Chain sawyers may not go out alone.
4.2 Trail Standards and Trail Assessment
Trails standards are based on the type of trail and the trail's purpose. Trail assessments measure to what degree a trail is meeting its trail standard. See the Trail Management Guide for the assessment procedure and trail standards.
The standard for maintenance is the Conference's Trail Maintenance Manual. Maintenance standards for the AT are spelled out in the ATC maintenance manual and can be modified by local management plans.
Based on land owner preference, the Conference blazes trails with paint or landowner approved tags
Other maintenance regulations such as for the AT and in Catskill Park exist and supersede Conference standards. See Section 4.11 for more detail on the AT and Section 4.12 for the Catskills. Catskill Park trail standards are defined in the Adopt a Natural Resource agreement (AANR) with the DEC as further described in Section 4.12. The AANR is to be provided to each new Catskill maintainer.
Maintenance reports are submitted semi-annually in writing or electronically on the current forms provided.
4.4 Co-aligned Trails
When two or more trails follow the same treadway, they are co-aligned trails and can have more than one maintainer. All the maintainers are responsible for the co-aligned sections unless supervisors have made other arrangements which can be renegotiated when maintainers change.When the Highlands Trail is co-aligned, it is maintained by the maintainer of the co-aligned trail.
Co-aligned trails in the Catskills have only one maintainer. The Long Path in the Catskills is identified with appropriate marking only at trailheads and critical trail junctions
Another organization may request that their long distance trail be overlaid or co-aligned on a Conference trail. The form for requesting an overlay is in the Trail Management Guide. Such requests are first presented for approval to the Trails Council and then the Board.
4.5 Trail Changes
Relocations - There are three types of relocations - major, minor, and trivial. Any change of location which involves change of land owner and major relocations require Trails Council approval.
Major - A major relocation is one which would be visible on Trail Conference maps (e.g. more than 100 yards) or which moves the trail onto property owned by a different land owner. Major relocations require approval of public agency or private land owner, the regional trails chair and the Trails Council. Major relocations in the Catskill Park require DEC approval through the AANR planning process as described further in Section 4.12. Major relocations on the AT require going through NPS/ATC procedures.
Minor - A minor relocation is not visible on a map, but is likely to be noticed by someone familiar with the trail. It requires the maintainer or supervisor to receive approval from the regional trails chair. For example: moving a trail 10 to 20 feet over a distance of 100 yards to avoid swampy conditions or erosion problems. In the Catskills, minor relocations are made only after consultation with the responsible DEC forest ranger.
Trivial - A maintainer may handle trivial relocations with no consultation, but they should be reported to the supervisor. Trivial is defined as affecting less than 20 feet of trail and with no major construction such as bridges. Examples include moving closer to a tree suitable for a blaze or to a better place for erosion prevention. Even people familiar with the trail would not be likely to notice the change.
After approval, details of all new trails, abandoned trails, reinstated or reopened trails and major relocations are to be reported to the Publications Committee, will be published in the TrailWalker, posted on the website, and incorporated into future Conference books, maps, and other publications. Some minor trail changes may also need to be reported because they affect the text of publications, e.g. elimination of a wet spot mentioned in the text. The trail update form in the Trail Management Guide specifies the details and mechanisms for such reporting.
4.7 New trails
All proposed new trails must be approved by the land manager prior to requesting Trails Council approval. For the specifics to be presented at Trails Council, see theTrail Management Guide.
Board approval for new trails is required only when the trail or trail system is an area managed by a new partner (i.e. one not previously a partner)
Land managers have the final say on trail names and blaze details. The Conference does not name trails after living people.
4.11 The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail (AT) involves parties outside the Conference. The National Park Service (NPS) has delegated management responsibility of the AT to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). In turn, ATC has delegated management responsibility for the AT in New York and New Jersey to the Conference. Thus the management is a joint responsibility of the AT local management committees, the Conference, ATC, NPS and state agencies. The details of these responsibilities are spelled out in ATC and NPS documents as well as the local management plans of the AT management committees.
Local management plans should be reviewed and approved by the Trails Council and the Board of Directors before submission to ATC. In other respects, the management of the AT should follow the Trails Policy.
4.12 The Catskill Preserve
Trails in the Catskill Preserve are on New York State constitutionally protected Forest Preserve lands. Primary management responsibility of the park's trails and lean-tos resides within the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). By mutual agreement between the Conference and the DEC, and on a case by case basis, many of these trails and lean-tos have been "adopted" by the Conference. An Adopt a Natural Resource (AANR) between the Conference and the DEC details maintenance standards and procedures to be followed within thePark.
In the Catskills, maintainers are required to communicate with a forest ranger responsible for coordinating activity on their trail. More restrictive standards apply to Conference operations within designated Wilderness Areas than in Wild Forest Areas of the Park. New trail construction in the Catskills is by delegation of responsibility from the DEC and must conform to the controlling DEC Unit Management Plan (UMP). Likewise, abandonment and reinstatement of trails in the Park are subject to the UMP process.
4.13 Conference Affiliated Trails
Conference Affiliated Trails are trails not adopted as Conference trails, but maintained by Conference organizational members. The organizational member must apply to the Trails Council for this special status. The form for requesting such status is in the Trail Management Guide. The maintainers report directly to the landowner or governmental body, e.g. the Long Island Greenbelt Trail. A maintenance report is also filed with the Trails Council chair at least once a year. By adopting the affiliated trail, the Conference is committed to assist in the protection of that trail.
Section 5 CooperativeManagement Agreements and Easements
All trails on public lands have a cooperative management agreement between the Conference and the public agency.
All trails on private lands should have a signed permission from the land owner, a revocable permission. Ideally there should be an easement to cross the land. Lacking either of these, a verbal agreement must be obtained. The person obtaining the verbal agreement must file a dated note with the particulars at the Conference office.
Section 6 Communications
6.1 Government partners
Open communication with government partners and land managers establish Conference credibility and should be an ongoing effort on both groups' parts. In addition to phone and e-mail communication, regional trails chairs and/or supervisors should set up regular meetings, at least once a year with their partners.
Discussions of particular problems are at an appropriate level park official capable of solving the problem. Most such communication will be by trails supervisors or chairs with park superintendents or chief rangers in their areas. Maintainers should feel free to report problems such as litter bags left for pickup directly to park rangers and to report trail misuse that requires immediate action directly to the police.
Discussion with park officials of matters of policy, memorandums of understanding, etc. should be carried out only by people assigned by the regional chair, board or Trails Council for a specific purpose.
6.2 Public meetings
When speaking or testifying before public bodies such as the DEC, Palisades Interstate Park Commision, zoning boards, greenway hearings, etc., one should be careful to distinguish between personal opinions and Conference opinions. Government partners who know the speaker as a Conference official may assume that all remarks are Conference opinions.
6.3 Press contacts
The Board of Directors adopted a press policy on November 22, 1988, which states:
"Press Announcements by Conference officials: Any Conference official who submits any article or letter to the editor of an outside publication using their Conference title should submit the article to the Conference office for review beforehand. This policy does not apply to letters addressed to government officials unless such letters make policy for the Conference."
When speaking to the press, be especially careful and clear remarks with the TrailConference office if at all possible.
Section 8 Emergency Preparedness
The Conference office must be notified of any emergency conditions as soon as possible. The existing reporting structure should notify the affected regional trails chair, supervisors and maintainers as necessary to get coverage of the problem as early as possible.
The Trails Council shall maintain action plans that detail how to deal with various emergencies such as injury, fire danger, storm damage, lost hikers, and trail closures. These plans are part of the Trail Management Guide and Volunteer Handbook.
Appendix A- Regional Trail Committees
This appendix is not part of the formal part of this document and may be changed without explicit approval to reflect the current state of what trail committees exist.
- West Hudson - South - Harriman-Bear Mountain and Sterling Forest trails, excluding AT and LP.
- West Hudson - North - New York trails west of the Hudson River, north of Harriman-Bear Mountain and south of the Catskills, excluding AT and LP.
- New York Trails East Hudson - all New York trails east of the Hudson River except the Metro Trails.
- Long Path North - the Long Path north of the Catskills
- Long Path South - the Long Path south of the Catskills
- Dutchess -Putnam Appalachian Trail Management - the AT in Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester Counties including blue side trails
- Orange-Rockland Appalachian Trail Management - the AT in Orange and Rockland Counties including blue side trails
- Metro- all trails in the five boroughs of New York City
- Catskill 3 - all Conference trails in the Catskills within DEC Region 3 including the Long Path
- Catskill 4 - all Conference trails in the Catskills within DEC Region 4 including the Long Path
- New Jersey Appalachian Trail Management - the AT in New Jersey including blue side trails
- North Jersey - Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Ramapo County Reservation, Campgaw Mountain County Reservation, Northern Wyanokies, Ringwood State Park, Stonetown/Monksville and New Jersey Palisades.
- Central Jersey - Rockaway River Wildlife Management Area, Pyramid Mountain, Farny Highlands, and Garrett/High Mountain. [Morris County, Southern Wyanokies, High Mountain, Wayne, Pequannock Watershed, etc.?]
- West Jersey - High Point, Stokes, Worthington, Delaware Water Gap, Southwest Highlands, Morristown, and Greenwood Lake/Wawayanda.
- Highlands Trail - West - overall management of the trail from the Delaware River to Hudson River with co-aligned section maintainers reporting to the local committee
- Highlands Trail - East - overall management of the trail from the Hudson River to Connecticut with co-aligned section maintainers reporting to the local committee