Alternative surfaces for greenways, paths, trails – ideas for Vancouver from Elvira Lount

Vancouver citizen/activist Elvira Lount has shared with us (below, originally addressed to Jerry Dobrovolny – Director of Transportation) her compilation of information regarding input on surface materials for paths for walking, cycling and other uses. This is in the context of three consultation workshops for the city’s Arbutus Greenway (see Arbutus Corridor Update and Consultation Sept 17, 21, 22 – Sat, Wed, Thu), but the information could apply to anywhere in the world considering such surfaces. There has been some controversy about what kind of surface to put on various paths in Vancouver (see Arbutus Greenway paving halted for more consultation).



The City’s description of the [Arbutus Greenway] workshops states “We’re looking at several different types of hard-surface materials, especially those that improve safety and accessibility”

In this regard, I don’t know if you’re aware of “National Trails Surface Study” the by the US National Center on Accessibility (Indiana University-Bloomington)  but it might be worthwhile for your department to consider it prior to the workshops. It addresses issues of accessibility and stability.


“The impetus for the National Trails Surface study was to investigate alternatives to the typical firm and stable surface materials of asphalt, concrete, or boardwalk. It is a common misconception that in order to make a trail surface firm and stable, it needs to be paved. Professionals have found that using soil stabilizers, or natural aggregates, can be effective alternatives to creating a trail surface that meets accessibility guidelines (Boone, 2008).

An individual’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being is positively affected by the action of hiking on trails. Factors such as being in nature, participating in a physical challenge, socializing with others in an inclusive recreational environment all contribute to an increased well-being. The desire to enjoy this type of outdoor recreational experience is equal amongst individuals with and without disabilities. Research shows that recreating is a necessary action when looking at increasing an individual’s overall well-being. The technical provisions of the Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas (U.S. Access Board, 2009) for trails requires a trail surface that is firm and stable. The guidelines are currently being applied as a best practice set of guidelines for Federal, State, Local and Private entities. In an attempt to preserve the natural trail experience (i.e. not concrete, asphalt and boardwalk surface materials), recreation professionals have identified a need to find alternative firm and stable trail surfaces.”

As you are no doubt aware, there are many unpaved crushed limestone paths around the world used by cyclists, walkers, joggers, strollers, wheelchairs etc without any issues. For instance, at Vanier Park and Jericho and Spanish Banks in Vancouver. These paths are much more aesthetically pleasing and force cyclists to go slower. (I posted a few photos here of the gravel paths at Vanier Park and Crescent beach

And check out this accessible trail on the Sunshine Coast! The Inland Trail near Powell River — “The 12 kilometer wheelchair accessible circuit includes 8 picnic/rest areas, 4 overnight camping areas and 6 fishing piers. The trail is a crushed limestone covered pathway with minimal grades.”

There is even a cyclists website that promotes gravel riding

It seems that gravel riding is actually the latest thing!

As for inline skating “accessibility” for skateboarders and rollerbladers, here’s an interesting article.

I’d like to think that your department is really open to considering other alternatives to asphalt … and is hip enough to catch up to what’s being done elsewhere. I certainly hope that the asphalt option is not a “done deal”.

2 thoughts on “Alternative surfaces for greenways, paths, trails – ideas for Vancouver from Elvira Lount

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