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City of Boise launches real-time trail condition tool

The tool is set to help trail-goers avoid muddy trails that can be damaged this time of year.

BOISE, Idaho — Winter temperatures are here, but that will never keep Idaho adventurers inside and off the trails. This time of year, there are extra considerations for trail-goers.

Lisa Dupelessie is the Foothills and Open Space Superintendent for Boise Parks and Recreation. She said hitting the trails when they are muddy and wet can cause issues. There is a reason Parks and Rec asks people to avoid those.

“People go on muddy trails. It can cause a lot of erosion. We have a lot of clay in our soil, so it can cause rubbing and just lots of different issues. The trail can widen it unnecessarily and just not be good for the system as a whole,” Dupelessie said. “We're definitely headed into muddy trail season and it is something that people need to be aware of and kind of be well informed before they hop out on the trail each time they go out.”

Yes, the trails are maintained and monitored, but there is a lot of land out there. It is really a community effort to make sure the trail system remains in good condition.

“We're a small crew trying to keep 200 miles of trail usable," Dupelessie said. "So, the more we can educate and have people work with us to keep it maintained, the best."

Part of that education effort is a brand new tool: Real-time trail condition updates.

“What people can do is come on to the website and in the top left corner, there's a dropdown menu and you can go to current trail conditions. So, as you click that, there's a color-coded key, if you will, and it kind of lets you know the current conditions of trails," Dupelessie said. "So, red, muddy, try and stay off and then it goes all the way down. Some trails this time of year are frozen and then will fade during the day. So, they're okay to be on in the morning, but it's not something you want to do at 3:00 in the afternoon. It gives kind of all that different information, lets you know if it's snow covered and just really will help people make a safe choice for not only them, but also the trail system."

So, how are the real-time updates aggregated?

“We have a trail crew that goes out and assesses trails and tries to have that updated each morning," Dupelessie said. "The other thing that people can do is, we also post updates on our Richard Rivers Facebook page, and if people are out there and see something that we don't, they're more than happy to comment. Let us know or even email us and let us know if there's a condition that we somehow missed or haven't gotten up yet." 

The hope is that the real-time info will help illustrate the impact people can have on the trail system.

“Muddy trail season is something that we've always been challenged with and trying to educate people even as they get on the trails or just talk about it in general. But this is an actual hands-on tool that they can use," Dupelessie said. "So, it's something we've been talking about for a long time and now have just been able to actually get in the works and make it make it happen for everyone."

Good habits now, will translate to better conditions when the warm spring returns next year.

“The damage that's done this winter and even going into the spring is hard for our crew to maintain. There's 200 miles of trail and as trails get damaged, it takes a lot of time to fix that in the spring and summer going into the next year for heavy use," Dupelessie said. "So, it can cause the trails to be more dangerous for people to use and just in general, not great for the trail environment."

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