Planning to do maintenance

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One of the fundamental considerations for path construction is how you intend to maintain the network. You will need to be able to secure resources for the long term management of any path infrastructure you build from scratch or upgrade. That could be money to pay contractors, staff or finding a source of volunteer labour. However, many funding organisations are reluctant to sign up to ongoing 'obligations' or revenue funding. Ultimately you may find a conundrum of being able to secure the capital funding to build a path but struggle to match that with a long term commitment for maintaining what has been built or upgraded.

Each path within the network needs to have a maintenance schedule – which could vary from annual inspections to frequent grass cutting. As part of the initial planning for your network, you will need to strike a balance between the level of construction and the ongoing maintenance. Highly engineered paths still need some routine maintenance, and in some cases it may be more appropriate to undertake low-key improvements coupled with ongoing maintenance to retain that level of reasonable condition.

Reducing maintenance requirements

When creating a new path, or significantly upgrading an existing one, try to design all the features to require the minimal level of maintenance. The good practice techniques described in this guide can be summarised as:

  • Make the drainage system capable of carrying the largest possible water volume likely to be encountered in an area, allowing for some blockage by silt, debris or vegetation

  • Use multiple pipes in a ditch system. If an individual pipe becomes blocked others will ensure the drainage system still functions properly

culverts in a ditch

  • Build catch pits in French drains (filter drains) to allow silt removal and easy cleaning of all pipe sections. Line filter drains with geotextile to reduce the amount of silt getting into the free draining stone

  • Try to make ditches 'self cleaning.' Aim for a gradient of 1:40 or greater, but less than 1:15 to avoid scour and erosion

  • Avoid using timber edging as it will require periodic replacement, will not stop vegetation encroachment and can prevent shedding of surface water. If 'hard' edging is required because, for example, weak soil needs the extra support, consider using recycled plastic edging instead of timber, which does not rot. If you do use edging make sure the path surface level is finished above the top edge, so surface water can easily run off, unimpeded by the installed edging or landscaped verges

  • Ensure path verges are smooth and level to allow easy grass cutting by mower or flail

  • Keep the path edge at least 3m back from tree canopies to reduce leaf litter and prevent tree root damage to the path surface. Use careful route choice to achieve this with minimum tree removal

  • Ensure efficient removal of surface water to prevent scouring or the formation of rain ruts

  • Select a path surface that is appropriate to the gradient. If a bound surface is undesirable, reduce the path gradient to suit an unbound or sem-bound surface

  • Ensure path construction is robust enough to take maintenance plant and equipment without damage

  • Be generous when specifying the path's base layer depth. A heavy vehicle may cross or use a path – legitimately or not –and a strong base layer will allow this without serious damage occurring

  • Be generous when specifying the path's width. Path users or maintenance vehicles travelling along a narrow path may damage the path edges and verges – a wider surface will allow users or vehicles to remain on the path

Find out more about maintenance planning here.

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