[Tagging] Trailhead tagging

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny at gmail.com
Thu Jan 3 03:05:45 UTC 2019

On Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 7:26 PM Peter Elderson <pelderson at gmail.com> wrote:
> The minimum requirements here are: free parking space, some kind of landmark, at least 2 bicycle routes and two walking routes, and an information board or stand. And waymarks for route directions.

None of the examples I posted meet all your requirements. Most
trailheads here are served by only short access trails, while the main
trails stay off road, so most trailheads serve either a single route
or else the entire trail network depending on definitions. Moreover,
there are relatively few entry points that serve both walking and
cycling routes. (We have a paucity of MTB routes on the whole.)

The only trailhead that I can think of that I've visited in recent
years that would meet your criteria serves a rather small natural area
and maybe 20 km of trail that's otherwise disconnected from the trail
network (except that the Erie Canalway, a paved
shared-foot-and-cycleway, runs down one side).  And that in turn means
that the Erie Canalway has a trailhead sort of by accident - because
it happens to be right there.

Most of our major national and regional trails simply aren't served by
that sort of facility.  To give the example of one intermediate-scale
trail (220 km) that I've mapped,
https://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/4286650, it visits
car-accessible highways fewer than ten times.  Only one has another
trail at the same access point, unless you count the short footways in
the campground at Lake Durant.  The two ends of the trail are in
villages, and one section in the middle has about a 5-km road-walk
through another village. Aside from those and the campground, the
trailheads consist of notice boards and registers at the crossings of
remote mountain roads.  There are two sections that are each over 60
km long that have no road crossings at all.

The two endpoints, as I said, are in villages, and are more
extensively marked; the southern terminus has the arch that I shared
earlier and ends at a village park that has toilets, and is behind a
commercial street that has various businesses. The northern terminus
is at a former railway station that is now a museum, and again has
many businesses close by. Neither terminus is a jumping-off point for
multiple other trails.

This is a trail of extensive regional significance. Not dignifying the
getting-on and getting-off points with the 'trailhead' tag, if we have
a 'trailhead' tag, seems a little parochial. (It'll also invite
further mistagging by us Americans, which will cause further arguments
on this mailing list down the road.)

Our definition would be much simpler: "designated point at which a
hiker, skier, cyclist, rider or snowmobilist gets on and off a
waymarked trail." Usually, but not always, a trailhead will have
dedicated parking (which may or not be free of charge), a notice board
and signage. More elaborate trailheads may have facilities such as
artwork or stelae marking them, seating, rubbish bins, toilets, and
public transportation access, particularly if they are located in
developed parks or campgrounds. Facilities such as these are
considerably rarer in trails that access "back country" or wilderness

I submit that the additional requirements you enumerate reflect a
European cultural assumption. Europe is much denser than the US. Its
trails are shorter. Its trailheads are closer to civilization, with
facilities to match.

The Adirondack Park, through which
https://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/4286650 runs, is about 24000
km² - an area intermediate in size between Slovenia and Belguim - with
a population density of fewer than 5 inhabitants/km². (The density is
that high because it's a public-private partnership. There are [highly
regulated] settlements and villages inside the park.) It is too sparse
to support the sort of facilities that you have in mind, and there's
no need to run trails to common points of concentration. The trails go
where they go, and many never reach the highway at all, starting and
finishing on other trails. Because of the long distances covered by
the trail network, the trailheads assume greater importance, not less,
despite their lack of facilities. I once sprained a knee about 25 km
from the nearest highway - you can be sure that I was acutely aware of
where the nearest trailhead was, even though it took me a day and a
half to hobble there. Knowing where your alternative exit points are
and how to reach them is an essential part of route planning.

The parks also have a few access points that don't have trails at all,
but are merely parking areas for hikers and climbers who are willing
and able to make their own way cross-country. They have register books
and notice boards, but no trails. I'm not sure what to make of them in
this scheme of things, but can tag the parking area and notice board
at least. (I don't think that any proposal for tagging a register book
ever gained traction.)

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