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  1. #1
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    Map design and planning

    Looks like we are very close to planning our first map and putting it into production!!!
    We've got tons of GIS data which hopefully will help. Our trail system is mainly on park land, and a couple of private parcels that we are certain to have permission to be on. We've got a mix of downhill freeride stuff, circled by XC stuff. We've got $2000 for carsonite trail markers sitting in the bank. We have to figure out placement of these markers as part of the map plan.

    What I want is some advice on mistakes not to make, mostly. Or things to think about that might not be obvious. We have tons of samples from other areas, too.

    The whole system I posted to the parcel thread, however until we get our permissions lined up we are thinking to just do the east half of the system. Also, perhaps do the highly concentrated area blown up as one side, and the larger part of the system on the other.

    Here's what we are working witf essentially the east half of the system. This is a FIRST draft of the ablility levels I did real quick last night. It's no where near a finished product, I just wanted to see if I could get the ablity levels to show.

    It's followed by an image of our whole system that i was talking about in the parcel thread.
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  2. #2
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    Also, how do you guys handle trail naming and rating? We know for a fact that people have lots of different names for the same thing. The main guy I am working with has built a good portion of the singletrack up there, I figure he's got a right to the names We are confidnent that no matter what names we use, someone somewhere will get PO'd about it.

    Also, ability ratings. We are thinking about this in two ways. One, is like a ski area, relative to the other trails. Problem is there is nothing truly easy in the sense of totally flat and totally buff. So the second thing we are thinking about is, "if Joe Tourist gets a map and thinks he's a mountain biker, what would HE think?" That would not be the same as we locals who ride all the time.

    thanks again for the help and thoughts guys.

  3. #3
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    Naming usually isnt too big of an issue around here.....its usually what the group you ride with that really sticks. on the map name it what the creator named it. if anyone has an issue with that then tell them to call it whatever they want. the maps been printed already.

    rating...just get a general consensus i would think. get some beginner riders and ask them what they think and then ask the locals what they think.

    and DO NOT forget the you are here....someone was nice enough to put lamenated trail maps on nice wooden posts out...but no you are here ><
    Lean back, Hit both brakes, And ask yourself, Do you feel lucky today?

  4. #4
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    Use the IMBA standard for trail rating.



    If you don't have any "easy" trails, then don't just label an intermediate as easy because it's your easiest. That sets up an unrealistic expectation in some riders.

    Since your map has a lot of trails in a tight area, definitely go with your thought about a blow-up detail. I did the same with our Highbridge map...

    Former New Yorker, now in Fort Collins
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  5. #5
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    [quote=formica]Also, how do you guys handle trail naming and rating?

    Sometimes ratings aren't as useful as a description of the area, especially when there is not a whole lot of variation in the type terrain. We don't use the IMBA ratings because all our trails would be rated very difficult (black diamond), yet they are considered "fatman trails" in the Four Corners region, fast with no real climbs at moderate altitude, ie 7000 to 8000'.

    As for names, generally go with the earliest precident, the builder preferably. Lacking that, the most common, most decent, or even the coolest sounding. The land manager or owner should also be consulted if that applies to the situation. It's wise to consult a usgs topo map and be sensitive to existing place names. If it's a new trail I solicite suggestions and wait for a really good one.

    In the end it's the map maker's map.
    I ride with the best people.




  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by formica

    What I want is some advice on mistakes not to make, mostly. Or things to think about that might not be obvious.
    A local hiking club got sued a few years ago for publishing a map showing trails on property it didn't have permission to use. The owner had the property posted, even fenced it. The most damaging evidence was the map produced by the club. Food for thought...even with the maps shown here.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly
    A local hiking club got sued a few years ago for publishing a map showing trails on property it didn't have permission to use. The owner had the property posted, even fenced it. The most damaging evidence was the map produced by the club. Food for thought...even with the maps shown here.
    good point, this is why we plan to only work with our Parks portion for now ( the first one). This is a very real concern for us,even though tons of people have been using the trails for 15+ years.

    The parcel map was made through digitizing trails/gis/aerial photos. We've made a point of not doing any on-the-ground work for parcels where we've not had contact with the owner. This is supposed to in theory cover us.

    minor rant: drives me nuts having to explain to people over and over again that we only do tangible work ( maintenance, maps etc) on the areas that we HAVE permission to work on. Meanwhile, the ad-hoc crew just keeps doing what they have been doing...

  8. #8
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    A couple bits of advice based on a project I did:
    1) Leave the map background blank or a single color. While the imagery looks cool and is very useful for organizing or rectifying gps track data it really clutters the map...

    2) Don't be afraid to manually edit some of the tracks to straighten them slightly to reduce clutter. It really doesn't matter that there are 57 turns on the trail - what matters is where it starts, where it ends, it's length and the difficulty.

    It's a fine line to balance usability with detail!

  9. #9
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    Personally I like the imagery if you can add a DEM too it and drape the image over it will add to the map and looks cool. I think its beneficial for imagery especially in areas where a topo map does little to no help, but where geographical features are predominant. I did a map where I separated technical and physical difficulty into their each rating to give the rides an better idea what each trail was all about along with descriptions.

  10. #10
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    I know that your maps aren't a finished product, but I would recommend using the label features tool in ArcMap instead of using label features. The tool allows you to place the labels directly where you would like them instead of relying on the programs best placement.

    My best recommendation is get the book Designing Better Maps: A guide for GIS users by Cynthia A. Brewer.

  11. #11
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    where do I find that? My GIS training is strictly tasked. Most of the time I am totally suprised if I get it to do what is needed.

  12. #12
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    There are several ways to label features. Looking at your map I'm assuming you placed the numbers on the map using label features from the table of contents. This is fine, but the program places the labels and they are not always where you would like them. If you wanted to go this route you can convert the labels to annotation and then you have greater control over the labels.

    The easiest method is use the label features tool found on the drawing toolbar. To add the drawing toolbar go to Tools/toolbars/draw. On this toolbar there will be a text tool (it is just to the right of the shape tool). Click on the little arrow next to the A and the label tool should be in the upper right corner of your options. Now with this tool you have the option of letting the program select the best placement of the labels or have the labels placed where you click on the object. You can control what objects get labeled and the placement by clicking at the location of each object you would like labeled. You can change the appearence of each label by right clicking on the label and setting its properties. Also you can move and rotate the labels using the arrow tool or the rotate tool. BTW all this has to be done in the data view not layout view.

    There are many tricks to making a map layout look really professional in GIS. I really recommend the book from my previous post.

  13. #13
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    those are the FID numbers from the attribute table. One of the GIS pros who is helping us set that display up. I have not been able to duplicate that display the trail names which are also in the attribute table. I know how to do the text, it's smilar to photoshop.

  14. #14
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    You can continue to add the trail names using the "photoshop way" or you can have ArcGIS label the features for you so you don't have to type in all the names (assuming you have them named in the attribute table). You can do this the way I described above, but first you will have to set what field is being used to label. Do this by right clicking on the feature name and go to the feature properties. Now select the label tab. There should be an option for lable field. Select the field that is holding your trail names. Now close the propeties. Once this is set you can simply use the tool that I described above to label the trail names without having to type them again. Really all this does is save you time from typing the names. If you have a lot of names this can be nice way to label.

    I guess my suggestion is don't use the label features option because it can clutter up the labels as evidence in the FIDs on your original map.

  15. #15
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    Topo maps are far superior for a couple of reasons. They allow a rider to look at elevation changes on there own, and decide if they REALLY want to do that almost vertical 300 foot climb, or maybe not. They also make a slightly more accurate representation of where the heck you are in the land, as they are usually supported by thinner lines for trails. Much easier and clearer to decipher.
    Waverly park topo is a little condensed for my liking, but its an informative map. Otter creek is so easy a child can use it. If you can find their website, and see a lifesize version, you'd be amazed at not only the simplicity of the map, but how its almost second nature to understand where you are, and whats up ahead.
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  16. #16
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    I think you have to put everything in perspective here...

    First, i'm a huge fan of the work done by NYCmtb... these maps are great... It shows intersections clearly and you get the orientation you need via the streets layed out around the map... That's how you figure where you are... Of course, it works real great in an urban setting...

    The map for Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill, NY is outstanding also, really clear and easy to navigate.

    Accuracy isn't the most important stuff on a map for the general public... However, the connections between the trails is the most important thing when dealing with a large piece of land... If you join the trail at a "T" intersection or a crossing "X" interseciton... then it needs to show clearly so the user know where they are on the map. You need to show the features (like a road, an old fireroad... even a brook...)

    If the area is flat... No need for Topo... but if there are great changes in elevation, go for topo... Also, if you can make a difference in the background color between open fields and forested area... Printscreens of GoogleEarth make a good starting point... But this is good on a small portion of land.... A wide park won't do it...

    Anyhow, maps aren't easy... And GIS and public maps are totally different. A trail rider doesn't need to know "exactly" where they are... they want to navigate trough the network with ease.

    Hope this helps a bit!
    ADSVMQ :: Quebec mountain bike trail advocacy group www.ADSVMQ.org

  17. #17
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    The problem with IMBA standards...

    Quote Originally Posted by jbogner
    Use the IMBA standard for trail rating.



    If you don't have any "easy" trails, then don't just label an intermediate as easy because it's your easiest. That sets up an unrealistic expectation in some riders.

    Since your map has a lot of trails in a tight area, definitely go with your thought about a blow-up detail. I did the same with our Highbridge map...

    The problem with the IMBA standards is their definitions almost ensure that the trail systems in the Kansas City area are all black or double black diamond. All of our trails, including our intermediate trails have rock ledges greater than 8".

    Keep in mind, this is flat as a pancake, Midwestern farming country. There are no hills. The trails hover at 900 ASL and don't break a hundred foot conture line and our trails would all be labeled expert level trails.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken in KC
    The problem with the IMBA standards is their definitions almost ensure that the trail systems in the Kansas City area are all black or double black diamond. All of our trails, including our intermediate trails have rock ledges greater than 8".
    I find the trail ratings a great place to start. If you need to adjust something slightly because one of the 6 definitions within the standard doesn't fit, then by all means use your better judgement. They're guidelines meant to be adapted to your local conditions, not laws. But they're a great international baseline from which to standardize trail rating.
    Former New Yorker, now in Fort Collins
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  19. #19
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    I'm not trying to be a jerk...

    Quote Originally Posted by jbogner
    I find the trail ratings a great place to start. If you need to adjust something slightly because one of the 6 definitions within the standard doesn't fit, then by all means use your better judgement. They're guidelines meant to be adapted to your local conditions, not laws. But they're a great international baseline from which to standardize trail rating.
    But I'll likely come across as one. That's not my intent but....

    If you take a standard and change the definitions of those standard to fit your specific needs, then they're no long standards.

    If someone who comes from an area that uses the IMBA standards as written comes to the greater KC Metro to ride some easy (green or blue) trails and we've changed the standards to meet our own definition, that rider is going to go away upset over the level of difficulty of our trails.

    The standards would be more valuable if they gave obstacle ranges that allow for more flexibility in labeling a trail. If for example, a green trail were allowed to have obstacles that were 2"-8" and blue trails had obstacles that were between 2"- 12", etc. then the standards would be much easier to apply, regardless of the type of trail. A green trail in Kansas City, Moab or New York could all fall in to the same standards.

  20. #20
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    Unfortunately at ski areas this is indeed a problem... a black diamond at your local 400' hill is not the same terrain as a black diamond at a resort in real mountains... It's a relative classification between trails at ski areas.

    You both have good points - the key is that if you 'refine' the standard for local use you need to make it clear to the users how a green/blue/black trail is defined locally....

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken in KC
    If you take a standard and change the definitions of those standard to fit your specific needs, then they're no long standards.
    I agree, but better to do that than to not use the standards at all by stating that they just don't fit your trails.

    All standards are going to be arbitrary to some extent and compromise is necessary in order to make any standard work. The IMBA standards *do* provide a range of obstacle sizes- Easy is 1-2", Intermediate is 1-8", Expert is 1-15", etc. There's plenty of flexibility there as IMBA has left them deliberately vague to allow for the widest possible application.

    Your argument seems more about the threshold that IMBA has set for Intermediate trails rather than the lack of wiggle room.
    Former New Yorker, now in Fort Collins
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  22. #22
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    Perhaps you're correct...

    Quote Originally Posted by jbogner
    I agree, but better to do that than to not use the standards at all by stating that they just don't fit your trails.

    All standards are going to be arbitrary to some extent and compromise is necessary in order to make any standard work. The IMBA standards *do* provide a range of obstacle sizes- Easy is 1-2", Intermediate is 1-8", Expert is 1-15", etc. There's plenty of flexibility there as IMBA has left them deliberately vague to allow for the widest possible application.

    Your argument seems more about the threshold that IMBA has set for Intermediate trails rather than the lack of wiggle room.
    The problem is the standard for a mountain bike trail isn't realistic. A paved trail that has curbs on it falls under Intermediate based on the standard.

    There aren't any mountain bike trails that I've ridden that qualify as anything other than Intermediate.

    1-2" obstacles aren't realistic on singletrack. Rather than changing the standard on every trail, the standard should be changed to a more realistic range.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken in KC
    The problem is the standard for a mountain bike trail isn't realistic. A paved trail that has curbs on it falls under Intermediate based on the standard.

    There aren't any mountain bike trails that I've ridden that qualify as anything other than Intermediate.

    1-2" obstacles aren't realistic on singletrack. Rather than changing the standard on every trail, the standard should be changed to a more realistic range.
    It's all relative. I ride DH and have no problem hucking 10+ footers, but I've seen a mountain biker here in NYC who, despite having ridden for years, WALKED HIS BIKE OFF CURBS. I s*** you not. I've also taken 10 year old beginner riders on our easiest trails and CRINGED as they crashed repeatedly because the things that we experienced riders/trailbuilders take for granted are FAR more challenging to less experienced riders.

    In general, I think the 8" threshold is appropriate for a "more difficult" blue square rating- the assumption with the green circle rating is that anyone should be able to ride that easy rated trail without any mountain biking experience, but navigating 8" ups and downs does take some experience and bike handling skill.

    And I think you're right that there's very little singletrack that would qualify as "easy" under the IMBA standards. The 36" tread width requirement would pretty much mean that anything "easy" wouldn't be singletrack.
    Former New Yorker, now in Fort Collins
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndysTrek
    Topo maps are far superior for a couple of reasons. They allow a rider to look at elevation changes on there own, and decide if they REALLY want to do that almost vertical 300 foot climb, or maybe not. They also make a slightly more accurate representation of where the heck you are in the land, as they are usually supported by thinner lines for trails. Much easier and clearer to decipher.
    Waverly park topo is a little condensed for my liking, but its an informative map. Otter creek is so easy a child can use it. If you can find their website, and see a lifesize version, you'd be amazed at not only the simplicity of the map, but how its almost second nature to understand where you are, and whats up ahead.
    Another alternative is to add/use spot elevations instead of topo and save yourself the clutter and hassle of label placement on topo lines?

  25. #25
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    Shaffer Butte Trail System Info

    Get ahold of Twisted Crank and Al. Twisted did a great job and Al got ours finalized. They turned out great.
    If you ain't hike you ain't Mnt Bikin

  26. #26
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    Shaffer Butte Trail System Info

    Get ahold of Twisted Crank and Al. Twisted did a great job and Al got ours finalized. They turned out great.
    If you ain't hike you ain't Mnt Bikin

  27. #27
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    have you guys seen the Black Rock map? Never mind the coolness of the web version ( our web guy is getting all hot and bothered to do something similar).

    http://brmba.org/index.php?option=co...id=4&Itemid=11

    What I really like about this map is the overall simpicity and presentation, especially of trails where there are "features".

  28. #28
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    I love the maps that jbogner posted, as well as the brmba map. Nice layout, easy to read and tell what is a climb and what is not. The features listed on the brmba map are a nice touch.

    On a side note, what are people doing for printed waterproof maps? Material? And can anyone suggest a print house? I'm in eastern upstate NY, a local printer would be nice but definitly not nessesary.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by formica
    have you guys seen the Black Rock map? Never mind the coolness of the web version ( our web guy is getting all hot and bothered to do something similar).

    http://brmba.org/index.php?option=co...id=4&Itemid=11

    What I really like about this map is the overall simpicity and presentation, especially of trails where there are "features".
    Hey Formica! Nice map you got there! I wonder if it could be possible to get the AI file that was used for that map... I'd love to see how the designer laid-out all the objects and line. Really smooth stuff and something i would love to be able to achieve... I'm the map designer for our local advocacy group. I love Mr. Bogner's work too, it's clean and easy to understand... but everywhere we ride, topo is really important! Let me know, you can contact me at: "eleonard .at. ADSVMQ dot ORG"

    Cheers!
    ADSVMQ :: Quebec mountain bike trail advocacy group www.ADSVMQ.org

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigJay
    Hey Formica! Nice map you got there! I wonder if it could be possible to get the AI file that was used for that map... I'd love to see how the designer laid-out all the objects and line. Really smooth stuff and something i would love to be able to achieve... I'm the map designer for our local advocacy group. I love Mr. Bogner's work too, it's clean and easy to understand... but everywhere we ride, topo is really important! Let me know, you can contact me at: "eleonard .at. ADSVMQ dot ORG"

    Cheers!
    that is blackrocks, not ours so I am a bit confused. We do have an ai file for our draft but its' not be posted anywhere for public consumption yet.

  31. #31
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    I agree with avoiding cluttering maps too much. IMO, if you want to accommodate folks who wish to view a trail system over an aerial photo, then provide a .kml file that they can load into google earth or google maps. I do, however, prefer hillshade from DEM's to bare contour lines. While I am good at reading topography from bare contours, I know many who can't, and hillshade works really well for them.

    I tend to get a bit cranky when illustrator maps are over-simplified. Sure, I understand the aesthetic benefits of smoothing trails, but I disagree with simplifying them to the extent that you cut out curves in the trail entirely. Tone them down so riders can see that there's a curve (or 5 curves) in x miles, because features like that aid in navigation. If the map shows three switchbacks going up a climb and the trail really has 6, how do you think riders are going to feel when they were prepared for three, but underprepared for 6?

    Accurate representation of what to expect on a trail is important, too. That's cool to provide waypoints and pictures on trail features, but it might be just fine to provide a written explanation in the legend as long as you're not too verbose.

    Avoid too much color if the map is intended to be printed and carried. B&W is fine for me, and if the map gets damp, the ink is less likely to bleed and obscure features.

  32. #32
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    As I was reading through the posts, I kept scrolling back to the original layout. I got to thinking about how you will end up marketing the finished product. Would you say that most map holders are people who live in the area and know the trails and terrain well already? Or are the potential map holders from out of town? Would you want to have your map as "the source" of information, or would you want to have users use a mix of GPS, google earth, internet forums, or other mapping software commonly used at home to combine with your map?
    Again, another marketing question. Say in a couple of years, do you plan to revise or update the map because of new trails, or will the trails and outlying area stay the same? And final question, is there a map already out there of this area? Any competing map makers?

  33. #33
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    Here is a link to a map maker's review of his map. Maybe some points you can use? http://www.emmittbarks.com/reviews.htm
    This is a great map, its a foldout map that sells nicely for $12 to $15. Lots of out of town folk buy it at outdoor shops. The thing is however, is that a lot more trails exist out there (yes, social trails), and now this map is out of date. So, there are a couple of folks making their own map of the area. Single page printouts on a topo with GPS tracks. Its nice, but I think it undercuts the big picture/ management of the region. It creates a bit of "whose map is the real map with the real trails which is okay to use" syndrome.
    Anyway back to your project... I agree with folks that with all the crossings of trails and the twist and turns, its good to simplify the layout. And where the trails get really complex (like the east portion of your photo), have a insert that shows the detail a little more clearly.
    As far as getting a trail rating that most riders to agree on is a great excuse to hold a ride event that includes a lot of people. A race, or festival of some sort. Otherwise if an individual or a few people decide what the rating is, you will have to spend the rest of your life explaining why the "meatgrinder" trail should have been a double black diamond, not a blue square.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chalkpaw
    As I was reading through the posts, I kept scrolling back to the original layout. I got to thinking about how you will end up marketing the finished product. Would you say that most map holders are people who live in the area and know the trails and terrain well already? Or are the potential map holders from out of town? Would you want to have your map as "the source" of information, or would you want to have users use a mix of GPS, google earth, internet forums, or other mapping software commonly used at home to combine with your map?
    Again, another marketing question. Say in a couple of years, do you plan to revise or update the map because of new trails, or will the trails and outlying area stay the same? And final question, is there a map already out there of this area? Any competing map makers?

    I think the first people that will want this is locals as there is nothing published out there. We get a lot of recreation travelers, so they will want it too. Currently the way people get info is all of the above - mtbr, go out with a local, shared GPS or ???

    There are no competing products. A couple of the routes are in the local Falcon guide, but the routes in there are kind of ??

    I suppose we'd have to update in a few years, but right now there aren't any plans for new trails. We are still trying to inventory what we have.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chalkpaw
    Anyway back to your project... I agree with folks that with all the crossings of trails and the twist and turns, its good to simplify the layout. And where the trails get really complex (like the east portion of your photo), have a insert that shows the detail a little more clearly.
    As far as getting a trail rating that most riders to agree on is a great excuse to hold a ride event that includes a lot of people. A race, or festival of some sort. Otherwise if an individual or a few people decide what the rating is, you will have to spend the rest of your life explaining why the "meatgrinder" trail should have been a double black diamond, not a blue square.

    LOL, we have an attitude that if people don't want to volunteer to help out with these projects, they've got no right to complain about trail names or anything else. It's not like they don't know we need volunteers. Our plan is to run a close to final draft by people who's trail knowledge of the area is very well respected.

    The draft we have so far is....beautiful... I can't wait to show it when we get further along. And... drumroll please.... one of our private owners of a critical parcel has agreed to an easement...

  36. #36
    ups and downs
    Reputation: rockyuphill's Avatar
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    Where there are so many trail intersections it really helps to have all the intersections numbered. The trail system at St.Felicien in Quebec had a superb map and signage that actually matched the map rather well.

    http://www.velostfelicien.com/Portals/0/Carte2007.pdf

    They had major trail intersections numbered like exits on a freeway so you could always identify where you were and could count minor intersections along the trail you were on. Then their signage at the intersections had the trail name and difficulty symbols so you couldn't accidentally end up on a double black diamond from a blue trail.

  37. #37
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    Reputation: Chalkpaw's Avatar
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    Nice to hear that the private landholders have agreed to an easement. Kudos!
    I was looking at the pdf from rockyuphill and I noticed that the main throughfares (mostly green routes) were illustrated with a thicker line. And the more technical routes used a thinner line or dashed line. This gives the user a quick way to read and ride especially if intersections/junctions were only short distances apart. When I worked at a public garden we designed the main paths to be wide and made of a hard surface material. In the little pathways inside the gardens we narrowed the path and used a soft surface material. Just this consistent subconsious message kept most visitors from getting too lost. The garden maps reflected this with bold lines for the main path that most visitors traveled upon and thin lines for those twisty paths inside of the gardens themselves.

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