Source: BENEFICIAL DESIGNS INC. submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
May 15, 2004
Project End Date
Dec 31, 2004
Grant Year
Project Director
Axelson, P. W.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
Currently, the benefits of objective trail information are limited in rural areas because the team of people required to complete the UTAP is difficult and costly to assemble. The USDA Forest Service is responsible for the management of 133,000 miles of trails and public lands with trails held by other Federal government agencies also extensive. With 84% of Americans reporting that they walk for recreation and many others using trails for a variety of activities, the ability to use trails is critically important to virtually all Americans. Since most trails are located in rural areas, the social and economic benefits of trails and the impacts of limited trail access are very significant factors that affect the well being of rural Americans. The UTAP was developed to meet the objective needs of both users and land managers. To date, the personnel and time required to implement the UTAP have limited its widespread application particularly in rural areas. The dispersed nature of the population adds significantly to the costs and logistics of gathering the required personnel. The high-efficiency trail assessment instrument (HETAP) will significantly increase the availability of accurate, objective trail information for land managers and communities in rural areas since most of the recreation trails, are located in rural areas. An alternative means for efficiently and effectively completing trail assessments is required so that rural Americans have access to the significant social and economic benefits that are provided by the availability of objective trail information.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The purpose of the HETAP is to bring the benefits of objective trail assessments to rural communities and land management agencies and enhance the social and economic well being of rural Americans. The goal of this project is to integrate new and existing technologies to create a high efficiency trail assessment (HETAP) instrument that will enable the collection of objective information in a timely and cost-efficient manner. With over 80% of Americans using trails for walking and other activities, both trail users and land managers would obtain substantial benefits from the availability of objective information in outdoor, natural environments. It is anticipated that the need for an efficient measurement system will increase as the proposed Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed areas are formalized. Accurate information benefits all trail users but is particularly important for users with limited experience or different movement abilities. Using the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) as its guideline and existing measurement equipment with sensors, the HETAP project will automate at least one measurement procedure while the others will be semi-automated. This will allow one person to assess trails at a rate of one mile per hour, significantly lowering the need for additional personnel to complete assessments. The HETAP will be evaluated through the comparison of measurements made with the HETAP and existing UTAP procedures over three trails. This will allow the project to establish the accuracy, validity and reliability of the HETAP. The HETAP will benefit the public interest by meeting two of the USDA objectives to protect natural resources and the environment and to enhance economic opportunity and quality of life, especially for people in rural areas. A prototype instrument/cart will be developed that will allow the transportation and operation of all measurement equipment. Specific design criteria will be based on rural land manager requirements, with drawings and training materials developed to ensure commercial production, distribution and cost viability. This project will significantly enhance the implementation of standardized assessments, particularly in rural areas where most trails are located and personnel and resources are the most limited.
Project Methods
The HETAP will integrate GPS position data with the data collection equipment, optimize sensor choice and HETAP design for durability and portability, and integrate the sensors in a robust and flexible computer-managed system. We will also develop software for user control of semi-automated measurements. Additionally will be the development of HETAP operation and training manuals and documentation of the final HETAP design for commercial production and distribution. The HETAP will revise the UTAP typical grade procedures for completion by one person using a series of single-location measurements equivalent (varies by less than 0.1%) to the simultaneous eye-level targets at two locations. The HETAP will utilize electronic measuring equipment for all trail assessment procedures; fully automate location, grade and cross slope; semi-automate others for completion at a minimum rate of one mile per hour. Measure grade and cross slope with 0.2% accuracy and 0.1% precision within three seconds, width and obstructions to 10 mm accuracy and 5 mm precision within five seconds, and firmness and stability with 0.3 mm accuracy and 0.03 mm precision within 30 seconds. The HETAP will enhance surface assessment accuracy by replacing the subjective foot-and-heel test with objective measurements using the rotational penetrometer. Data recording will be automated with a single interface to the TrailWare data analysis software to expedite data collection, avoid data entry errors and reduce the post-assessment data processing time. A HETAP prototype will be developed that will enable one person to transport/operate all measurement equipment; is constructed for use on rugged trails with 12-inch obstacles; can be manufactured for sale, including all instruments except GPS and the rotational penetrometer, at a production cost of $1,000 or less; can be easily transported in a small truck; has a maximum weight of 25 lbs.; provides GPS mounting and entry; and measures grade, cross slope, width, obstructions and surface firmness and stability to the specified level of accuracy. Pilot evaluations will be completed, evaluating the accuracy of the HETAP in collecting data equivalent to UTAP results on three types of trails (shared use path, front country recreation trail, backcountry trail). The HETAP will be considered accurate if the measurements vary from UTAP values by less than 0.5%. A summary of existing technology for each measurement will be created to evaluate the cost and performance benefits to create a comprehensive evaluation of lightweight sensors suitable for on-trail use. Initial research will be conducted to establish the market feasibility of the HETAP, with particular attention to its implementation in rural areas. Representatives will be contacted from various land management agencies to provide input on the HETAP. The HETAP will be designed to meet the requirements of at least 75% of the land management agencies contacted.

Progress 05/15/04 to 12/31/04

Trails, the majority of which are located in rural areas, significantly improve the quality of life in and provide substantial economic benefits to the communities around them. Objective and accurate assessments of on-trail conditions enable land managers to monitor environmental change, identify unique natural features, more effectively focus preservation and protection activities, create accurate construction and maintenance plans and budgets, and enhance the access, safety and satisfaction of all trail users. Currently there is no commercially-available, automated, integrated system for recording and analyzing objective trail information that meets all of these criteria. The purpose of this project was to bring the social, economic and quality of life benefits of objective trail assessments to rural communities and land management agencies by utilizing new and existing technologies to create a high efficiency trail assessment process (HETAP) that is suitable for widespread implementation in rural areas. The research completed in Phase I focused on automating the valid and reliable measurement procedures used in the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) so one person could complete them at a lower cost. A combination of sensors was used to automate the measurements of trail length, grade, cross slope and GPS location. Other measurements (e.g., obstacles, features, width, surface) were semi-automated. A new software program (UTAP Pro) was created to enable real-time, on-trail data recording. All of the required equipment was integrated into a single cart suitable for one-person operation in a variety of trail environments. Trail data measured under a wide variety of trail conditions with both UTAP and HETAP were compared for accuracy and required resources. A land manager survey obtained valuable feedback on the initial prototype and the commercial application of the HETAP research. Phase I of this research established the feasibility of a streamlined, cost-efficient automated assessment process (HETAP) for obtaining objective information about on-trail conditions. The Phase I HETAP system resulted in dramatic savings in assessment costs (11.3% of UTAP cost). HETAP accuracy on the trail was superior to UTAP for most measures except typical grade, which nearly met our target specification. The accuracy of typical grade measurements can be improved by using an alternate sensor technology. The potential of the HETAP was made clear by the results of the land manager survey; with over 85% of land managers indicating that their interest in the HETAP was very high. The Phase I results from the pilot data collections and the survey of rural land managers have been used to determine the technical objectives and research methodology for Phase II of this research. During Phase II, a new prototype will be developed to address the limitations that land managers identified in HETAP-1 to ensure that HETAP-2 is optimally suited for use on the wide variety of trail conditions that are typical in rural areas. An evaluation of the validity and reliability of HETAP-2 measurements will ensure that land managers can rely on the accuracy of the trail data.

This research will create a streamlined, cost-effective instrument for obtaining accurate, objective information about rural trail environments. Increased availability of objective trail information will enhance the well being of rural Americans through increased trail use, safety and enjoyment, as well as enhanced capabilities for managing trails. Over 25,000 Federal, state, local and private land management agencies are potential customers. Since most trails are located in rural areas, this project will deliver the health, environmental and economic benefits of trail use to rural Americans. This project will: 1) bring the benefits of objective trail assessments to rural communities and land management agencies by creating an accurate and reliable high efficiency trail assessment process that is optimized for implementation in rural areas where personnel and resources are often most limited and on-trail conditions can vary dramatically (e.g., bike or equestrian paths, back-country or single-track trails, motorized vehicle trails, front-country or interpretive trails), and 2) enhance the social and economic well-being of rural Americans through increases in: quality of life, leisure satisfaction and safety through increased trail use for recreation and transportation; property values and tax revenues in communities adjacent to trails; trail tourism and opportunities for employment in trail and tourism-related businesses; and the accuracy of monitoring of environmental changes and impacts resulting from trail use.


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