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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guest Blog: Trail Surfaces by Camille Lore

When I attended a week long Department of the Interior Trail Construction and Management class, I learned that even the most rocky, rugged and steep section of the Appalachian Trail at Harper's Ferry could have been built to accommodate users with mobility challenges.  Trail construction and planning has certainly changed since the 1960s.

Yes, even this section of trail could be designed so it could be used by someone in a wheelchair.
Photo Credit-  Jefferson County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

A well planned trail demands forethought and careful site evaluation.  Today, the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia has obvious erosion and is not accessible to those who have mobility challenges.  Of course, when the trail was planned and laid in the early 1900s, there was no National Environmental Policy Act or permits for that matter.  There were no bobcats or mini-skids building the trail.

Today, trail layout and design needs to take a holistic approach to the site and its users. 

Initially, the trail planners need to consider:

· Who will be using the trail?

· What land features exist?

· What soil types are present?

· What sensitive environmental features are on site?

· When will the trail get most use?

All, trails constructed today should be designed so they are accessible to users who have mobility challenges.  With the specifications laid out in publications like the US Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines, a plethora of engineers and landscape architects, there is no reason for any trail to exclude those who are mobility challenged.  In the same vein, please don't think that users using mobility devices or child carriers want a perfectly smooth, pristine, boring trail either. 

The US Forest Service's standards direct that improved trail surfaces must be “firm and stable” to be considered accessible. 

“Firm” is defined as “not noticeably distorted or compressed by the passage of a device that simulates a trail user in a wheelchair. Surface firmness should be determined and documented during the planning process for the seasons for which a trail is managed, under normally occurring weather conditions.”

“Stable” is defined as “not permanently affected by normally occurring weather conditions and able to sustain normal wear and tear caused by the uses for which a trail is managed, between planned maintenance cycles.”  Their guidance continues to say that many materials including crushed stone, fines, packed soil and other natural materials can be used to provide   a suitable surface for trails. 

What is the setting of the trail?  Will the trail be over a wetland or forested area?  Is the setting more developed or less formal?  What is the capacity of the group providing management and maintenance of the trail? 

If the proposed trail is going in a small central park with simple vegetation and will only receive light use, is a 4 foot wide asphalt path really the right choice?  Is there a budget and staff ready to repair cracks and replace degraded sections of trail, or would something like a crushed limestone path that only needs to be rolled out once a year be more appropriate?  In terms of stormwater runoff coefficients, the two are nearly identical if there is no thought given to path shading and management of the velocity and quality of the runoff from the paths.  If managed with recessed planting beds, either choice could be managed to provide improved stormwater quality.

Is grass a trail surface?

Grass is approximately 11% pervious.  11% may be less than you thought.  However, grass will slow runoff and provide some mechanical filtration of particulates in stormwater.  Concrete will not provide the same benefit and will also lead to heated stormwater runoff.  Placed in the appropriate areas, grass certainly will adhere to the Forest Service's qualifications of “firm and stable” while providing additional benefits. 

Porous paving is working!

The myth that porous paving only works in areas where it is 70 degrees year round and salt isn't needed on sidewalks is just outdated information!  Porous paving is (and has been) working in the Philadelphia area for over 20 years.  If a municipality is insistent on hard asphalt paths, would it be appropriate to use porous paving and underground infiltration?  You bet.

Take a look at this demonstration of porous paving in action:

There are many options for trail surfaces.  As long as they can adhere to the requirement of “firm and stable”, they can take many pleasing shapes and appearances-mulch, porous blocks, crushed stone, packed soil.  The old idea of plopping down a plain asphalt path is not only outdated, but also demands more resources in the way of dollars and staff time than some of the more natural, less obtrusive materials.  In the age of  MS4 permits and requirements to clean up stormwater, more thought should go into trail surfaces than we gave them 20 years ago. 

-Camille Lore has worked in municipal government and land use planning for the past 10 years.  She is currently a grant writer for MadCityGrants (, providing affordable, effective grantwriting for nonprofits in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pennsylvania’s New Environmental Regulations

Yesterday news broke that the Pennsylvania State Environmental Advisory Board passed a new set of regulations for waterways deemed “high quality”.  The rigorous standards have been set in advance of any Marcellus Shale drilling in the state, in order to help ameliorate the environmental damage such drilling would create.

Here in Allentown, as we are not on the Marcellus Shale, these regulations also include guidelines for the protection of “high quality” waterways with the use of natural vegetative buffers.  This is the part of the new regulation which most directly concerns us. 

As it stands, the Lehigh County Conservation District classifies Trout Creek, The Little Lehigh Creek and Cedar Creek as High Quality streams.   Which would mean that in our parks, the creeks should be buffered with significant areas of vegetation. 

There are no such buffers anywhere in our parks, save a few small places in Trexler Park.

None of this is news to any of you who have been reading my blog for a long time.  I have been the town crier of riparian buffers for almost the entirety of my time as the author of Remember.  Now, with these new state regulations in place, has the time finally arrived when we will see such buffers implemented throughout or park system?

I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

At Lake Nockamixon

My initial reaction upon driving into Nockamixon State Park was the resemblance the road and parking lots had to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey.  As I drove further into the park I began to recall coming to see Lake Nockamixon as a child.
My close friends remain surprised at my seemingly out of nowhere transition to Nature Man.  The truth is that while my dedication, focus and work has recently (as in one year) become focused on Ecological issues; I was brought up at places like Nockamixon.
Growing up, my father took Bucky and I to parks whenever he had a day off.  We visited zoos, “reptile lands”, arboretums, gardens, and (of course) parks.  I spent the majority of my formative years on day-trips all over Eastern Pennsylvania. 
As it stands, the truth is that I have always been somewhat of a Nature Boy whether I recognized it or not.  The trips my father took us on, the crayfish he pulled from under stones in the creek, the sowbugs he collected in the backyard, whatever it was – all of it -
has forever left an imprint on me.
Today, as a member of the Allentown EAC, a student of Environmental Science at Muhlenberg College and an activist and advocate for the environment in the Lehigh Valley, I realize I owe it to my Dad. 
Thanks Dad.


Global Warming: The tipping point?

image (Image from NASA)

Yesterday, released the climate data compiled by NASA for the January-April period of 2010.  The data shows that this period was the hottest recorded in 131 years and this recently released data also shows that the last 12 month period of observation, is also the hottest on record.

Today, I want to take a look at some Climate Change skeptic arguments.

1. “It snowed so much last winter, global warming is crap!”

An isolated snowy month, a blizzard, a heat wave or any other short term weather phenomena are not indicative of a long term climate change pattern which is what the concept of Global Warming is dealing with.  Every long term climate study shows that the average temperature of the earth is rising and rising at a rate over the last 100 years that is alarming when compared to previous warming periods. 

2. “The Earth has warming and cooling cycles, this is just part of the natural process”

This second statement is irrefutably true.  As best as science can tell us, the planet has gone through many cycles of warming and cooling.  Warming cycles are marked by increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and higher sea levels.  Cool cycles show lower atmospheric carbon dioxide and lower sea levels, as polar ice caps and periods of long term glaciations occurred.

Thing is, at least since 1958, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are rising at an exponential rate never before seen in the climate record.  That increase in carbon dioxide exacerbates the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, warming the planet.  As atmospheric temperatures increase, ocean water temperatures increase and as the water heats up, it expands.  This expansion prevents the ocean from absorbing the carbon dioxide it usually does and begins a sequence of events that can destroy the oceanic food chain, interrupt or stop natural ocean currents and melt the polar ice caps at an extremely fast rate.

The exponential increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been measured and documented at the Mauna Loa Observatory since 1958.
I could keep listing the various claims from Climate Change deniers but the same answer will result.  This phenomenon is real.  I am talking real science here folks, not some Al Gore movie or bumper sticker on a Prius.  From the disappearance of bees and bats to the death of conifers in the Rocky Mountains, the very real effects of Climate Change are beginning to affect the entire world.

It only gets worse from here readers.

This post is not about the problems that will be caused by Climate Change.  The purpose of this post is to highlight an overriding environmental issue that will affect every single one of us in the very near future.  At a time when the environment is the lead news story every night due to an unspeakable ecologic tragedy,  there has never been a better time to bring the scientific realities of a serious global issue to the forefront of both the national political discussion and the local one.

Today, I am going to write briefly about a local discussion of climate change.  Check back tomorrow for a review of the new bill sponsored by John Kerry and Joe Lieberman regarding America’s energy future.

So, what can we do right here in Allentown to fight this global scourge?

First, the little things like turning excess lights off or driving less.  Then, eat sustainably and locally so that the oil needed to put food on your table is lessened dramatically.  Most importantly, we need to become the best possible stewards of the environment that we control, right now. 

Invasive species, watershed health, riparian buffers, tree plantings, etc, etc, are the big issues that we can do something about right here, right now.  Addressing these issues on a local level, in tandem with localities across America and hopefully the world will make the biggest and longest lasting change possible.

I have written about all these things many times.  We know what we are facing.  The time has come to change it.   

Check these things out, this is how you make a difference:

Emmaus Farmers Market
Lehigh Valley Food Coop
Heritage Conservancy

That’s just a start, the list could go on.

In Five Days: EAC Tour of the Parkway

I am really excited about this Sunday.

EAC members David McGuire, Karen Tuerk and myself will be joined by Mike Gilbert the watershed specialist for the city of Allentown.

I really hope to see a lot of folks out.

Come with questions, come to learn!

We will be meeting at the Robin Hood Bridge at 2 PM.

Bring your dogs, bring your families and friends.


Monday, May 17, 2010

In Six Days: EAC tour of the Parkway

I am really excited about this Sunday.

EAC members David McGuire, Karen Tuerk and myself will be joined by Mike Gilbert the watershed specialist for the city of Allentown.

I really hope to see a lot of folks out.

Come with questions, come to learn!

We will be meeting at the Robin Hood Bridge at 2 PM.

Bring your dogs, bring your families and friends.

Six Days!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This Tuesday: Vote for Joe Sestak

In a first for Remember, I would like to offer the official endorsement of this blog for Congressman Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary against Republican Senator Arlen Specter.  As this is a blog focused on the environment, and on environmental issues, I will be endorsing Congressman Sestak based on his progressive initiatives and forward thinking regarding energy policy and the environment.  

Vote for Joe on Tuesday. 

Specter VS Sestak: On the Issues-

Arlen Specter:

Voted YES on protecting middle-income taxpayers from a national energy tax. (Apr 2009)
  • Voted YES on requiring full Senate debate and vote on cap-and-trade. (Apr 2009)
  • Voted NO on tax incentives for energy production and conservation. (Jun 2008)
  • Voted YES on addressing CO2 emissions without considering India & China. (May 2008)
  • Voted YES on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jun 2007)
  • Voted YES on making oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal. (Jun 2007)
  • Voted YES on factoring global warming into federal project planning. (May 2007)
  • Voted NO on disallowing an oil leasing program in Alaska's ANWR. (Nov 2005)
  • Voted YES on $3.1B for emergency oil assistance for hurricane-hit areas. (Oct 2005)
  • Voted YES on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%). (Jun 2005)
  • Voted NO on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Mar 2005)
  • Voted YES on Bush Administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003)
  • Voted YES on targeting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010. (Jun 2003)
  • Voted NO on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill. (Mar 2003)
  • Voted YES on drilling ANWR on national security grounds. (Apr 2002)
  • Voted YES on terminating CAFE standards within 15 months. (Mar 2002)
  • Voted YES on preserving budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 2000)
  • Voted NO on ending discussion of CAFE fuel efficiency standards. (Sep 1999)
  • Voted YES on defunding renewable and solar energy. (Jun 1999)
  • Voted YES on approving a nuclear waste repository. (Apr 1997)
  • Voted NO on do not require ethanol in gasoline. (Aug 1994)
  • Keep efficient air conditioner rule to conserve energy. (Mar 2004)
  • Raise CAFE by a 4% per year until 2018. (Jul 2006)
  • Rated 50% by CAF, indicating a mixed record on energy independence. (Dec 2006)
  • Sign on to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. (Jan 2007)
  • Open the Outer Continental Shelf for oil & gas leasing. (Jun 2008)
  • Supports immediate reductions in greenhouse gases. (Sep 1998)
    • Voted YES on $2 billion more for Cash for Clunkers program. (Aug 2009)
    • Voted NO on prohibiting eminent domain for use as parks or grazing land. (Dec 2007)
    • Voted NO on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations. (Sep 2005)
    • Voted YES on confirming Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior. (Jan 2001)
    • Voted NO on more funding for forest roads and fish habitat. (Sep 1999)
    • Voted NO on transportation demo projects. (Mar 1998)
    • Voted NO on reducing funds for road-building in National Forests. (Sep 1997)
    • Voted YES on continuing desert protection in California. (Oct 1994)
    • Voted YES on requiring EPA risk assessments. (May 1994)
    • Supports grants for brownfields remediation. (May 2002)
    • Make EPA into a Cabinet department. (May 2002)
    • Rated 32% by the LCV, indicating anti-environment votes. (Dec 2003)
    • Inter-state compact for Great Lakes water resources. (Jul 2008)
    • Celebrate the recovery of the bald eagle. (Jun 2008)
    • Strengthen prohibitions against animal fighting. (Jan 2007)
    • Focus on results, not regulation. (Sep 1998)


    • Reduce greenhouse emissions & stop global warming. (Dec 2009)
    • Create an advanced alternative energy research project. (Nov 2006)
    • Voted YES on enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. (Jun 2009)
    • Voted YES on tax credits for renewable electricity, with PAYGO offsets. (Sep 2008)
    • Voted YES on tax incentives for energy production and conservation. (May 2008)
    • Voted YES on tax incentives for renewable energy. (Feb 2008)
    • Voted YES on investing in homegrown biofuel. (Aug 2007)
    • Voted YES on criminalizing oil cartels like OPEC. (May 2007)
    • Voted YES on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jan 2007)
    • Voted YES on $2 billion more for Cash for Clunkers program. (Jul 2009)
    • Voted YES on protecting free-roaming horses and burros. (Jul 2009)
    • Voted YES on $9.7B for Amtrak improvements and operation thru 2013. (Jun 2008)
    • Promote conservation of rare felids & canids. (Mar 2007)
    • Grants for beach water pollution under Clean Water Act. (Apr 2008)
    • Strengthen prohibitions against animal fighting. (Jan 2007)
    • Fund projects for international conservation of cranes. (Jan 2009)