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Lake Life Today: Properly Designed Pathways

Do you have a pathway from your home to the lake’s shore? Chances are you do. Water flowing over improperly designed paths and walkways is one of the ways pollutants find their way into our lakes and waterbodies.

Properly designed pathways for foot traffic minimize compaction to soils in surrounding areas, help to absorb water, reduce the rate of stormwater runoff flow, protect soil from erosion, and prevent pollutants such as sediments from entering the lake.

What does a properly designed path or walkway look like? Properly designed pathways are meandering, shed runoff regularly preventing erosion, and stabilize high traffic areas. Stormwater runoff should be directed into adjacent vegetation.

Ideally, paths should be no more than three – four feet wide. The walking surface should be covered with 3 – 4 inches of material such as Erosion Control Mix (ECM), pine needles, wood chips, crushed stone, or other material. This will well-define the path, guide foot traffic, and reduce soil erosion.

Steeper slopes may require water-bars to divert stormwater runoff to vegetated areas, or infiltration steps. These topics will be covered in future articles. Whenever possible avoid steeper slopes for your pathways.

If new pathways are not clearly defined, they can be marked with strategic plantings, stones, solar lights, etc., along the edges. This will show the preferred route for foot traffic.

It is important to maintain your pathways by periodically removing accumulated debris from the surface. Mulched pathways may need to be re-shaped and additional material may be needed to replace what has washed or worn away.

For more information about pathways take a moment to read this helpful information sheet:

Reprinted with permission from Elaine Philbrook, LakeSmart Director for CRLA. Sources: Maine Lakes, Lakes Environmental Association (LEA)

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