assess anywhere

trail assessment and mapping services

assessing anywhere

trail assessment &
mapping services

our services

Beneficial Designs offers a variety of services to help maximize the potential of your trail system, ensure compliance with federal standards, increase trail use, and create a safe and beneficial trail environment for people of all abilities. Contact us to inquire more about any of our services, which include:

trail assessment

data processing and reports

GIS data and mapping services

TAI map and signage design

training workshops

existing trail and signage review

the process

Beneficial Designs regularly performs HETAP trail assessments across the nation, collecting and processing data and producing a variety of information displays to communicate trail access information to the public as well as land management.

The following information gives a general overview of each step of the Beneficial Designs trail assessment process, in addition to trail assessment training services.

the process

Beneficial Designs regularly performs HETAP trail assessments across the nation, collecting and processing data and producing a variety of information displays to communicate trail access information to the public as well as land management.

The following information gives a general overview of each step of the Beneficial Designs trail assessment process, in addition to trail assessment training services.

STEP 1 plan

What you should know before beginning a trail assessment.

STEP 2 assess

See how the assessment process is performed.

STEP 3 process

What we do with the collected data.

STEP 4 display

Making collected data visual and accessible.

training workshops

Equip your team to assess.

STEP 1 plan

What you should know before beginning a trail assessment.

STEP 2 assess

See how the assessment process is performed.

STEP 3 process

What we do with the collected data.

STEP 4 display

Making collected data visual and accessible.

STEP 5 training workshops

Equip your team to assess.

STEP 1 plan

what is the area to be assessed?

Before beginning a trail assessment, the area to be assessed should be described.
What is the area? Is it a park?
How many trails you need to assess and how many segments exist within each trail?
How many miles of trail will need to be assessed?

who will perform the assessment?

Beneficial Designs regularly performs the High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process (HETAP) for numerous clients. However, you may want to do the assessment yourself. In that case, Beneficial Designs offers training and products in order to equip you to be able to continue the trail assessment process into the future. What method of assessment would you like to use? Take a look at the Tools section to determine which method will best suit your needs. Should you choose to perform the assessment, Beneficial Designs is available to work with you to process and display the data if necessary.

what are the end products?

What purpose will the assessment data serve? What is the end goal?
Beneficial Designs offers a variety of products based on your trail assessment data. Some options include:

trail maps

Trail data can be processed and utilized to produce customized trail maps. All relevant objective trail access information is displayed within the map, allowing users to know exactly where they can best travel throughout the trail system. Maps can be displayed on outdoor panels, online, in brochures, or just about anywhere. For more info, visit the Display section.

trail access information (TAI) strips

Like trail maps, TAI Strips provide trail users with the vital trail facts necessary to make informed and safe decisions. TAI Strips however are designed for an individual trail, including more information than is typically shown in a trail map. Signs are posted at trailheads, ensuring that users throughout the system will always be informed. For more info, visit the Display section.

GIS datasets

GIS services from Beneficial Designs can provide clients with the ability to take the detailed trail assessment data collected using HETAP and add a spatial component. The GPS coordinates collected during the assessment process are used to generate an accurate representation of the trail and then detailed HETAP information is linked to each individual trail or trail segment assessed. Trails that were previously mapped on paper are now able to not only be mapped digitally, but also carry all of the trail assessment data collected as part of the HETAP process.. For more info, visit the Display section.

other?

Have other ideas? Please share! Beneficial Designs would love to work with you to help provide access and information in creative new ways!

what is the budget?

Let us know what kind of budget you are planning so we can work with you. Various assessment options are available at a range of prices. Contact Beneficial Designs to find out what method will work best for your specific needs.

what is the project time frame?

How much time is available for the project? When is the absolute deadline?
Assessing trails takes time and is not always possible for every type of surface year round if trail surfaces are covered in snow (although snow covered trails can also be assessed). When is the best time for your trails to be assessed? The number of miles of trail will help determine the speed at which the assessment can take place. Beneficial Designs trail assessment coordinators are ready to travel, assess, and train. Just let us know the best times to schedule flights and start the process.

identify all trails that must be assessed

Figuring out which trails will be assessed can be a complicated process. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

collect basemaps

Any existing trail maps will help to see which trails will be included in the assessment. Existing maps will also help if any trail maps are to be designed.

confirm trail names and locations

Before assessors head into the field, it is important to confirm all trail names and locations.
Also make sure to confirm the number and location of segments per trail.

identify trail features to be collected

What type of features that exist along the trails do you want to survey? Restrooms, benches, interpretive signage, viewing areas, water spouts, or others?
List all necessary features so that the assessors will know exactly what to look for and assess.

identify and train the assessment team

How many people are available to assess? Are they able to hike the length of your trails?
Have they been trained in the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) and the High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process (HETAP)?
Beneficial Designs certified trail assessment coordinators are ready to train!

STEP 2 assess

what is assessed?

All types of trails can be assessed, from concrete to dirt to rocky surfaces and narrow ledges. Trail types may include trails for hiking, equestrians, mountain biking, beaches, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or motorized vehicles, including ATV, OHV, motorcycle, or snowmachines.

Once the assessment process begins, assessors will be focusing on five main areas:

grade

The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Standards defines Grade, or Running Slope, as:
“The slope that is parallel to the direction of travel…”

The US Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG) defines Grade, or Running Slope, as:
“The ascent or descent of a trail segment expressed as a percentage of its length, which is the difference in elevation of a section of a trail measured parallel to the predominant direction of travel. This may be expressed as a ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance or as the percentage of change in elevation.”

cross slope

The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Standards defines Grade, or Running Slope, as:
“The slope that is perpendicular to the direction of travel…”

The US Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines defines Cross Slope as:
“The percentage of rise to length, which is the difference in elevation, when measuring the trail tread from edge to edge perpendicular to the direction of travel This may be expressed as the percentage of change in elevation or as a ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance.”

tread width

The US Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG) defines Tread Width as:
“The visible trail surface measured perpendicular to the direction of travel.”

FSTAG also explains:
Clear Tread Width is “The width of the usable trail tread and adjacent usable surface.”
Minimum Tread Width is “The width of the usable part of the tread width at the narrowest point on a trail”
Minimum Trail Width is “The width of the trail tread and the adjacent usable surface at the narrowest point on a trail.”

surface quality

The US Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG) defines Surface as, “the top layer of a trail.”

FSTAG also explains:
A firm surface “resists deformation by indentations. During the planning process, firmness must be evaluated for noticeable distortion or compression during the seasons for which the surface is managed, under normally occurring weather conditions.”

A stable surface “is not permanently affected by expected weather conditions and can sustain normal wear and tear from the expected use(s) of the area, between planned maintenance.”

While a simple method using one’s heel can subjectively estimate the firmness and stability of a surface, objective surface assessment requires more precise and advanced testing. The Rotational Penetrometer (RP) 100 Series is the perfect tool for testing the surface quality of a trail. Shipping a reconstructed representation of a trail surface to an off-site test lab for surface testing is impractical and, most likely, impossible. In contrast, RP readings been proven to correlate with ASTM F1951 surface testing results, providing accurate and reliable surface quality measurements. Portable, precise, and durable, the RP accurately and objectively measures surface quality for firmness and stability on-site.

obstructions

Any obstructions to the path of travel, whether within the path of travel or protruding into the path of travel are recorded.
Such features often include, but are not limited to rocks, ruts, or roots.

additional features

Besides these five main areas of focus, other features along the way can be recorded and/or assessed typically for size, material, and quantity. More in-depth feature assessment procedures are available through the DORAP mobile app. Such features may include trailhead signs, trash cans, water spouts, benches, restrooms, and many more.

speed of assessment

Our trail assessment experts have assessed many types of trails across the country and their experience and knowledge expedite the assessment. Using the High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process (HETAP) cart or wheel, a single trail assessor should be able to assess a trail, measuring grade, cross slope, tread width, surface quality, and obstructions along and beside the trail, at speeds of anywhere from 0.8 to 1.6 mph. This is up to 8 times the speed of a manual assessment, using only a smart level, measuring wheel, tape, and the DORAP mobile app (beta). Adding an additional assessor multiplies the speed at which an assessment can be done, providing an extra hand to measure while data is entered. For more information on the assessment methods, please visit the HETAP tools section.

data collection

Data is entered at each station. Stations can be recorded at any point, but generally are to be recorded at points along the trail when any one of the five focus areas changes or appears. At the least stations should be recorded every 25 feet, but the more stations recorded, the more accurate the GPS points will follow the trail. The High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process (HETAP) software enables data to be automatically stored to a database and sorted, providing accurate and detailed summary trail reports for analysis. The HETAP software allows station data to be copied over to the next station, allowing users to record all necessary information quickly, without the need to re-enter the same data. The Developed Outdoor Recreation Assessment Process (DORAP) mobile app (beta) also uploads collected data to the cloud and is immediately ready for processing.

STEP 3 process

what happens to the collected data?

Once all the trail data has been collected, our assessment coordinators work together to assemble the trail data, piecing together trails and/or segments in the HETAP software. The HETAP data is then specially formatted for ArcGIS and exported as a shapefile. Once shapefiles are imported into ArcGIS, Beneficial Designs can then review the data points, confirming the correct placement and assembly of the trails and/or segments. This initial draft displaying all the data points can now be reviewed by the client, being converted to kml files for easy viewing in Google Earth or other viewing platforms. After confirmation of the data points, trail lines are stitched together by ArcGIS and polished and refined by our GIS specialists.

data reports

The processed HETAP data is then used to generate Trail Access Information (TAI) reports for each assessed trail. The TAI summary provides management with the vital characteristics that indicate the objective levels of access for a given trail. In addition to general trail information such as name, length, elevation gain and loss, the amount of typical and worst values are displayed for features such as grade, cross slope, and tread with. Obstacles and trail quality can also be displayed. This information may be used in a variety of ways, 

making data visual and accessible

Importing the vast amount of collected data into a GIS environment enables that information to be isolated and visualized for clarity and analysis. While a single line may be used to represent a trail, HETAP provides the unique opportunity to include an infinite amount of trail data at any point within a trail. Thus, both station points and segments of a trail are loaded with detailed objective trail information. The quantitative trail data is then represented using both point and line symbols, using a variety of visual variables to illustrate the ranges of data. For example, critical information such as trail grade can be set to graduating colors depending on the steepness of a trail. Red or purple lines might indicate steep sections of the trail, while green or blue areas might represent more level portions.

The ability to immediately observe the location and degree of various trail features allows both trail users and land managers to gain an instant, clear, and objective understanding of the quality of any assessed trail. Areas of a trail out of compliance with accessibility guidelines or beyond the abilities of a certain individual can now be immediately identified and dealt with as necessary.

STEP 4 display

how is the information displayed?

Objective trail data is useful to many, but without proper communication and design, that information may not reach the intended audience. As mentioned above, Beneficial Designs offers a number of options for displaying the trail data to ensure that trail users are informed.

printed material

Any printed material can be produced in order to distribute Trail Access Information.
Brochures, one-page trail summaries, and pocket foldout maps can all be developed for any trail system.

trail maps

When designing a trail map, whether to be displayed at a trailhead, online, or in printed material, Beneficial Design utilizes the collected data imported into ArcGIS in order to produce an accurate trail map along with Trail Access Information. Typically Beneficial Designs uses a combination of satellite imagery and either contour lines or generated hillshade to clearly illustrate the trail system area. Trail lines are imported into the map, along with any relevant data, such as roads, features, rivers, water sources, and more. For more examples of previous map projects, take a look at some of our maps in the Display or Projects sections.

Panel maps are typically posted at trailheads. Beneficial Designs orders Custom High Pressure Laminate (CHPL) signage from iZone Imaging, designed to withstand the outdoors for many years. Both panel and mounting solutions can be found at the iZone Imaging Website.

A full list of necessary elements to provide to Beneficial Designs in order to complete a trail map project is available upon request.

trail access information (TAI) strips

Beneficial Designs offers a number of designs for TAI Strips. These trailhead signs are designed to be mounted either on a 4″x4″ wooden post or a steel post. All relevant trail data is included on these signs, providing the necessary trail information for every user that enters the trail. TAI Strips are also printed on either eighth or quarter inch Custom High Pressure Laminate (CHPL) from iZone Imaging. Stickers may also be printed and adhered to carsonite boards. For more info, visit the Display section.

and more!

The prevalence of smart phones, tablets, and the internet makes instant access to data and maps the new norm. Beneficial Designs trail assessment using HETAP and ArcGIS will allow you to receive your data in a digital format that can be used in ArcGIS online as well as KMZ files that can be imported into Google Earth. This allows easy access to not only trail name and location, but typical grade, typical cross slope, elevation gain/loss and allowed uses. Online map formats allow users and management more flexibility and options to interact with trail data. For more info, visit the Display section.

training workshops

equip your team to assess

The High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process (HETAP) is an automated version of the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP), utilizing both specialized software and hardware. A HETAP/UTAP training will not only teach you how to look for the issues in a trail system but also how to measure them using the system. It takes experience and training to walk down a trail and catch all of the attributes that need to be addressed.

Training workshops generally last 2 days and consist of both classroom and hands-on training. During the first day we will spend the day in the classroom, telling you why you should assess trails, what you will be assessing, and how to assess. The second day will be a hands-on field assessment of a nearby trail, followed by an in-class example of how to process the data into Trail Access Information. Lastly, the attendees have a chance to take the Trail Assessment Coordinator exam to become a Certified Trail Assessment Coordinator through Beneficial Designs and American Trails.

Let's roll!