Fort McCoy News May 22, 2015

Fort McCoy assesses training area roads, trails

BY SUSAN M. VOS
Range and Training Lands Assessment Coordinator

Military training, weathering, vegetation growth, and general use can affect Fort McCoy's maneuver trails over time.

During fall 2014, the Range and Training Land Assessment (RTLA) program conducted a maneuver-trail assessment to describe the current conditions and accessibility of trails within Fort McCoy training areas. RTLA is a component of the Integrated Training Area Management (ITAM) program within the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).

Photo 1
Erosion cut deep gullies through a steep trail in a training area on
Fort McCoy. The Range and Training Land Assessment program
conducted a maneuver-trail assessment during fall 2014 to
determine the current conditions and accessibility of trails within
Fort McCoy training areas.
Contributed photo.

The assessment first was completed in 2005 and 2006 and has been conducted in three-year intervals. August through November 2014 marked the fourth iteration of the survey. This survey has proven useful for identifying potential areas for Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM) projects and for updating the Sustainable Range Program Geographical Information Systems (GIS) database.

Using parameters similar to previous surveys, the surveyors delineated segments along the trails by surface materials and conditions. Points were recorded for site-specific problems, such as potholes, gullies, or trail obstructions, and for special structures, such as culverts and berms.

RTLA teamed up with the ITAM GIS program to develop an efficient way to collect the data. A geodatabase was created to store geospatial data for 2014 and future roads-and-trails surveys. A data dictionary was created to collect trail conditions that need to be assessed consistently for every road segment.

The data dictionary creates predefined options that allow RTLA staff to quickly and uniformly record data associated with each trail segment. The data dictionary was loaded onto a handheld GPS device for field collection. The existing roads centerline data and aerial photography were loaded on the GPS and used to guide the surveyors during the data-collection process.

RTLA surveyed 464 miles of active trails. Features such as potholes, ruts, debris obstructions, and gullies were identified and mapped. Trails also were characterized by the amount of vegetation encroachment observed along each trail segment and the intensity of use.

Photo 2
Tall plants cover a trail in a training area on Fort McCoy.
Contributed photo.

Trails were given an overall rating to help prioritize work requirements for LRAM. Seventy-seven percent (357 miles) of active trails were rated as low priority for repairs.

The review of multiple survey iterations helped identify high-use areas with reoccurring needs for repair. This process also was used to identify erosion-control structures that either have failed or are starting to fail.

The effectiveness of trail-improvement projects also was analyzed by looking at previously mapped and repaired problem areas and comparing those locations to current road conditions. This provided the LRAM program confirmation on whether rehabilitation efforts remain effective.

By identifying road segments with heavy encroachment from vegetation, the LRAM program can prioritize trail segments that may need management to make the trail more accessible to training.

Fort McCoy training needs are changing constantly. The information gained from this survey will aid in measuring trail use, identifying maintenance requirements, evaluating the effectiveness of management practices, updating and improving maneuver trail-map data, highlighting areas lacking maneuver trails, and prioritizing work requirements.

   (Vos is a contractor with the Center of Environmental Management on Military Lands of Colorado State University.)