Title page for ETD etd-71998-201357

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Lanehart, Eric
Author's Email Address elanehar@vt.edu
URN etd-71998-201357
Title Backcountry Trails Near Stream Corridors: An Ecological Approach To Design
Degree Master of Landscape Architecture
Department Landscape Architecture
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Skabelund, Lee R. Committee Chair
Bork, Dean R. Committee Member
Devitt, Patricia A. Committee Member
Marion, Jeffrey L. Committee Member
Salmon, Richard G. Committee Member
  • trail impacts
  • ecological design
  • landscape ecology
  • stream corridors
  • recreation ecology
Date of Defense 1998-07-31
Availability unrestricted
Traditional trails near backcountry stream corridors are often designed with disregard to their potential ecological impact. Ecological and trail related literature show that riparian landscapes are sensitive to recreation impacts. This thesis examines concepts for designing trails in ecologically compatible ways near backcountry stream corridors.

The synthesis of the literature regarding the biophysical processes of stream corridors and the effects of trails on the environment is used to help develop principles and guidelines for locating trails near backcountry stream corridors. In turn, these principles and guidelines assisted in the development of a trail assessment manual useful to scientists, planners, and designers. Seven trail impacts are assessed: excessive soil erosion, wet trails, water on trails, excessive trail widths, multiple trails, root exposure, and stream sedimentation. Three backcountry study sites from the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Province of Virginia are evaluated. A ranking and measurement procedure is developed to characterize environmental, use, design/siting, construction, and maintenance factors because each of these influence the degree of impacts along studied trails.

Results show that many steep trail segments, especially those without proper drainage features have incised or eroded trail treads. Likewise, many trail segments without drainage features located along flat adjacent landforms have wet soil and water on trail impacts. Overall results show that as use amount or type increase there is a parallel in trail and environmental degradation. Finally, a stream crossing and trail drainage concept is developed illustrating ways to reduce sediment inputs into nearby streams.

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