Good Fun & Good For You
Whether you like to bike, hike, bird watch, fish, or simply sit in the shade and collect your thoughts, forests offer a variety of ways for you to enjoy your time in the woods. Plus, forests can enhance your physical and mental health. Family forests offer opportunities for exercise, a place to retreat and relax, and may even provide a way to enhance your memory. As the New York Times reported, according to “a seminal study from the University of Michigan, people can better learn after walking in the woods than after walking on a busy street.”
Many landowners and Tree Farmers welcome their neighbors, youth, groups, and others to their land for a variety of recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, and hiking.
These visitors provide economic benefits and also contribute to the local community by promoting hands-on learning experiences and developing a rural sense of place.
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Make Your Forest Recreation Friendly
As a forest owner, you have the opportunity to bring your joy of nature to others. To make the experience as pleasant and safe as possible, here are some activities you may want to consider implementing:
A trail system opens your woodland to many recreational opportunities. Trails also provide access needed to monitor woodland conditions and identify management problems. As you design your trail, here are some issues you’ll want to consider:
- Determine Trail Uses – Will your trail be multi-use or single use? How much will the trail be used? What quality of experience are you seeking?
- Select the Corridor – A trail corridor is the portion of the landscape that encompasses the trail. Photos and maps will help you analyze the area and refine the trail location.
- Scout the Trail Corridor – Can you use existing trails and pathways? Where are the points of interest, obstacles, and ownership boundaries?
- Establish Design Standards – Consider the trail configuration and length, the tread surface and width, the clearing width and height, along with the grade, sight distance, water crossings, and any special requirements.
- Mark Trail Location – Use flags and colored wooden stakes to physically note where the trail will be constructed. Be sure to obtain any required permits for crossing streams, wetlands, railroads, highways, rights-of-way, etc.
- Clear the Trail – Start by removing small trees, shrubs, and the limbs of large trees. Then cut the large trees and remove stumps and boulders.
- Construct the Tread – To complete your trail, you’ll want to create a surface that is smooth and durable enough for its intended users. Consider how tread materials will react to compaction, displacement and erosion.
To make your forest fun and safe for visitors, you’ll want to include several different types of signs and markers.
- American Tree Farm System® sign – ATFS is a non-profit organization that strives to ensure the sustainability of America’s family forests for present and future generations. Landowners who enroll their woodlands are following AFF’s Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification.
- Trailhead Sign – Place this sign at the beginning of a trail to help users with important information; the trail name, a map with a “you are here” mark, north arrow, allowed trail uses, warnings, and how to contact the landowner and emergency help.
- Confidence Markers – These strategically placed markers are often painted on trees or rocks to help reassure users that they are on the right trail.
- Directional Signs – Especially useful at trail intersections, these signs may include arrows and information about where each trail leads and the distance to the next significant feature.
- Warning Signs – Place signs with clear language and/or pictures indicating a hazard or fragile environmental resource. An effective warning sign tells trail users what to do or not do, why, and what the consequences are.