Establish policies and best practices early on
People use trails in many different ways. For example, some people may simply want to walk or bike on the trail, while others may have an interest in hosting events on, along or adjacent to the trail. Consider what the protocol for these events will be, whether permits are required, how far advance notice is necessary, etc. These may be adapted as trail usage changes, but it is helpful to define such expectations early on.
Depending on the kind of trail, there might be access restrictions for some kinds of users. For example, snowmobilers might only be allowed with three or more inches of snow. Perhaps cyclists are required to have a light to ride the trail at night. These kinds of restrictions/rules/standards should be determined early on to help set the tone of the trail.
A good way to communicate these policies is through signage, clear communication and community outreach.
Along with policies and best practices, consider maintenance. If there are facilities such as bathrooms, who will be responsible for maintaining them? A contractor? City/county staff? Volunteers? Depending on the amenities, upkeep could include a host of needs from providing toilet paper, hand soap and cleaning, to mowing, debris clean up and path maintenance. Have a plan in place for who will be responsible for what, how frequently, and what the associated costs will be.
Creating a trail can be a long process from start to finish, but that doesn’t mean it has to sit unused until it’s complete. Consider opening up the trail for interim use
While the trail may lack final features, this gives community members a chance to engage with it in real and tangible ways. It also helps people see the project's potential, and may be inspire and motivate people to get involved. Just be sure to make it clear that the trail is not finished and may not be accessible to all types of users.
Important note: While this kind of use does assert that trail users explore at their own risk, it is strongly advised to make sure any pre-existing infrastructure, especially bridges, is up to code and able to hold both various user types as well as emergency response vehicles.
Establish best policies & practices
Consider permits & access restrictions
Communicate trail guidelines
Develop ongoing maintenance plan
Consider interim use