Trail Building Planning Steps

If you are looking at potentially adding a trail to your community, there are several steps to consider. Successfully funding, building, and maintaining a new trail can be a tough task. Here are a few different preparation steps to consider and plan for before you start building a trail.


Before starting into trail design and construction, the first step is to lay out a concept for your trail.  A good concept consists of a few sentences or statements to define your mission and objectives. Design a rough goal that you wish to achieve.

Study area

The next step is to study the area where you want to build. Sketch or photocopy a rural municipality ownership map or topographical map to gain an idea of the location, ownership, and terrain.

Why is this trail a good idea?

The next step is to better understand what makes this trail a good idea. What aspects make this trail unique? What is the need for this trail? What target audience or demographic will use this trail? Are adjustments possible to incorporate a greater user group? All of these questions aid in creation of a successful trail. Trail knowledge and ideas can be gained by talking to other trail operators or organizers, these contacts can be found on

Try discussing the idea with friends and family to see potential opportunities or risks that you might have missed. Keep track of those in support of a trail to add to a mailing list as well as your community’s recreation director. A walk down the desired trail location and route can help to point out any potential problem areas such as cliffs, bogs, rivers, or other difficult to pass areas. As well, consider any environmental concerns like heritage sites which should not be disturbed.

Route evaluation checklist

Creation of a route evaluation checklist helps to compile the vast diversity of the area such as the vegetation, topography, natural features, built features, infrastructure, wildlife, slopes, views, intersections, and access points. Gathering this information into a checklist will assist in designing the path for the trail and potential features to set your trail apart from others.

Contact any outdoor clubs and talk to key people

Grow your stakeholders and connections by contacting outdoors groups and key people who can help to get the trail built and backed. Some of these groups are the Saskatchewan Snowmobiling Association (, Saskatchewan All-Terrain Vehicle Association (, Saskatchewan Cycling Association (, and Saskatchewan Horse Federation ( Making these connections will be a huge step towards gaining funding and volunteers.

Call a meeting to clarify your group’s vision

Call a meeting for all potential trail supporters and finalize questions such as: general type of trail, how it will relate to existing trails, approximate route and length, type of uses allowed, preferred surface material, theme or prominent subject of area, name for the project (a catchy name will often attract users).

Managing tasks

 Select a person for each of the following tasks:

  • Research history of site
  • Put together a list of influential people in area
  • Start to consider where the funding could come from
  • Compile a list of recreation, cultural, historic and tourist sites which would be supportive
  • Explain how this trail relates to the provincial trail network and other nearby routes
  • Have a local artist “add” a trail to a large photo of the site
  • put the research material together into a display, emphasizing the community benefits
  • put research material onto a map of the area, at a scale of 1:50,000 or more detailed
  • compile text information, with reference to the distance from one end and start a scrapbook of all the promotion and support received

Go public!

This step involves meeting more influential people, organizations, and the general public while recording their contact information. This also includes writing a media release and contacting the media such as newspapers, radios, and televisions to get the word out and gain more supporters.

Expand and formalize the concept

Write a program statement to obtain formal endorsements and funding. The program statement will consist of a one-page narrative documenting the vision and schedule. You should already have some influential supporters and contacts, so now is the time to use them. Contact target groups or people such as an MP, MLA, Mayor, City Council, or Major Industry in search of endorsements.

Project proposal

The project proposal requires a detailed site investigation to determine exactly what work is required. This will be one of the largest steps and require time to document all of the information and build an in-depth report.


Have the financial person start a project budget of anticipated expenses. Getting written quotations at this stage will allow more efficient fund-raising and reduce the approval time.


The design step focuses on land acquisition, path clearing, placing material, obtaining required equipment, creation of maps, creation of signage, and other required design tools.


 Have someone start to search for funding. Indicate to all organizations how much you are requesting from others. Everyone wants to see commitment from others. (A great place to start your search for funding would be to visit or National Trails Coalition at Record all of the organizations you have asked for funding, their reply, and the amount donated, this will help to keep the books.


Obtain all approvals including land ownership (lease, licence of occupation, or purchasing), municipality, funding organizations, operating organizations. Sample landowner agreements can be found on the SaskTrails’ website.


Determine the need for liability insurance and acquire a policy if required. (Oasis Insurance — — located in North Battleford offers a discount rate to all SaskTrails members.)

Official opening

Congratulations, you have officially opened the trail and made a huge impact on your community. Now it is time to plan the opening, recognise the efforts of the group, and thank the supporters and funders. Once opened it is important to focus on ongoing trail maintenance and to continue to evaluate and follow up with trail issues and feedback. By following these steps, you can more accurately and reliably plan out the creation of your trail.

These steps and the full Trail Planning Workbook can be found at

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