“CoTrails” – A Collaborative Trails Initiative
CoTrails is a unique partnership between Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests management and recreational user groups.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests (CONF) is nationally considered an “urban forest”; one of the few across the country that receive enormous recreational use (2.5 million visitors annually) due to proximity to large population centers. Hikers, cyclists, hunters, anglers, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and equestrians all recreate on its 850 miles of trails. GFW co-initiated and supported the Forest Service in a first-ever collaborative public process for tackling recreational, environmental, and social impacts of multi-user (non-motorized) trails in 2010-11.
The Forest Service, led by then Supervisor George Bain, launched a Collaborative Trails (CoTrails) Initiative by hosting a series of meetings in communities surrounding the forest to gain feedback for creating a diverse, quality trail system that is maintainable and ecologically sustainable. A core Working Group of volunteers was then formed, with ForestWatch as the conservation voice, along with key Forest Service personnel, and they quickly developed a Strategic Plan which included an assessment of trail conditions. Funds raised by Georgia Forest Watch and the Forest Service paid for a professional assessment of 220 miles of some of the worst trails in the CONF, and the CoTrails volunteers assessed an additional 250 miles of trails.
The long-term goal of the Collaborative Trails (CoTrails) Initiative is to provide a diverse, quality trail experience that is maintainable and ecologically sustainable. Most recently, CoTrails volunteers helped develop a 5-year trail plan for the CONF. The Forest Service nationally has only 30% of the funds necessary to maintain our federal trail system, and is becoming more reliant on volunteer trail maintainer groups. CoTrails has become a national model for resolving user conflicts (www.fs.usda.gov/conf), and trail maintenance of public lands.
Want more information?
Forest News Fall 2013: “CoTrails: Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests’ 2014 Trail Plan”
Forest News Summer 2013: “CoTrails: Continuing Steps 3 and 4 of the CoTrails Process”
Forest News Spring 2013: “CoTrails Update: Step 3, Issues and Opportunities Underway, and Another Award”
Forest News Winter 2013: “CoTrails: An Award-winning Initiative Set to Review Trail Assessments”
Forest News Spring 2012: “CoTrails: A Precedent-Setting Venture”