Gravel on Hiking Trails
Why did we put gravel on the hiking trails?
This decision did not come easily and was much discussed and long thought about. Initially the hiking trails were built as narrow dirt paths no more than 3 feet wide. From the beginning of construction and upkeep to the present we have installed (and continue to install) many, many different methods and structures to address the 2 main issues that impact trails: water and user impacts. Both are very difficult to control. Structures include steps, water divergent bars, retaining logs, drains, bridges, signs, etc. Currently there are over 65 water bars on these trails. Initially, these structures were quite successful in keeping the trails natural, narrow and scenic.
Over time, with a growing and changing user base, these methods of control have not proven successful in some areas of the trails. Typically these areas are on long, straight runs or older sections of trail so deeply gullied by water and the impact of people that there is no downhill side to allow adequate drainage. In these sections, more people than not choose to go around the mud rather than step into it, as is proper trail etiquette. This not only contributes to an ever-widening section of trail but also exacerbates the problem by creating multiple braided pathways, trampling vegetation that holds the trail edge soil in place and contributing to greater erosion and a mud pit that grows larger and larger.
Radnor Lake has had similar issues over the years and consistently re-applies mulch to elevate their trails. Like many natural areas, they also limit use of the park and trails to specific user groups. Both running and walking dogs are prohibited on the trails at Radnor Lake and many other natural areas. As you are well aware, these activities are not restricted here. Walking dogs and running are incredibly popular at the Warner Parks. In the 86 years that this park has been around, millions and millions of folks have enjoyed an experience on our trails, be it hiking, running or walking dogs. We get close to 2 million visitors per year and that number continues to grow. This is not without impact. With the expected doubling of Nashville's population in the next 20 years, our method of managing the trails has to change from that used in the past.
Therefore, in an attempt to encourage users to stay on the intended path, reduce erosion and suppression of vegetation along the sides of the path, and promote the re-growth of wildflowers and other natural flora to the trail sides, we have turned to gravel as a means to elevate and harden problem sections. The gravel will spread out and work its way into the soil, leaves and debris will eventually cover the paths, and the trails will settle into a more natural state, all in time.