Something new is coming to Metro Parks, Serving Summit County: a trail-rating system.
Each trail in the park district will be getting a letter and a number to better inform users about what kind of trail it is and how tough it is.
Park district commissioners approved the plan last month, and the system will start appearing at trail kiosks, on the park district’s website and in park literature soon, park spokesman Nate Eppink said.
It will be included in a trail brochure coming out next year and in material for the popular Fall Hiking Spree, he said.
The rating system is admittedly subjective, but the goal is to assure visitors that they are on the type of trails they want at the difficulty level they want, he said.
For example, the Towpath Trail in New Franklin and Clinton will be rated A1. The Class A designation means it is a multipurpose trail. The 1 means it is an easy trail.
The Deer Run Trail, with its steep hill in O’Neil Woods Metro Park in Bath Township, is a C3 trail. The Class C designation means it is a hiking trail and the 3 means it is difficult.
The trails will be rated from 1 to 3: 1 is the easiest, 2 is moderate and 3 is difficult.
In the past, the park district has used a 1-to-3 rating system for the Fall Hiking Spree, but it was largely not used elsewhere.
Multipurpose trails like the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, the Bike and Hike Trail and the Sand Run Jogging Trail will all get Class A designations. Such trails can handle two-way traffic and have signs and benches.
The Class B designation will go to hiking trails that are accessible for wheelchairs and the handicapped. Such trails are in developed park areas.
The Class C designation is for basic hiking trails. There may be steps, rocks and roots. They might require a high level of exertion. Most are 3 to 5 feet wide. Most park district trails are in this category.
The Class D designation is for primitive hiking trails with steep, narrow and irregular routes and rocks and roots. The trails are narrow and challenging. They are 12 to 18 inches wide. There are few, if any, trail amenities. They are tough.
At present, the park district has no trails that would be Class D, Eppink said.
It is possible the Mingo Trail in Sand Run Metro Park in Northwest Akron could be shifted from a Class C to a Class D, he said.
Class E trails are bridle trails for equestrians. Bicycles are banned from horse trails, but they are shared with hikers and walkers.
There is also a designation for neighborhood connector trails, short trails that link neighborhoods to parks. Metro Parks, Serving Summit County operates one trail in northern Summit County that links the Towpath Trail and Bike & Hike Trail in Sagamore Hills Township.
The need for such a system has been discussed for years, and the idea “makes a lot of sense,” said Keith Shy, park district director-secretary.
The idea is to rate the trails based on the level of exertion that is required, he said.
The new designations also will dictate the level and type of trail maintenance required, officials said.
Overall, the park district has 125 miles of trails.
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is aware of the need to better identify trails for park visitors, but has not taken similar action, spokeswoman Mary Pat Doorley said.
“We know it’s an issue, but we need to evaluate how we identify trails because it is so objective,” she said. “We have nothing in the works.”
The National Park Service looks at the issue in an appendix to the park’s new trail management plan, which is under final review.
In that report, the federal park identifies nine types of trails in the Cuyahoga Valley and relies, in part, on a U.S. Forest Service system to identify five classes of trails. A Class 1 trail is for hiking and a Class 5 is a fully developed multi- purpose trail. Difficulty level is not part of that system.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.