Once your trail is finished and open it is not sufficient to let it take care of itself. A maintenance plan needs to be put in place to keep all your hard work from falling into disrepair.
If possible, the trail should be walked by you or a responsible person after each hiking group has left. This may not be possible but it should be done at least once a month. Note should be taken of any damage that has been done to water bars, erosion, bridges and markings. Note should be taken of any comments made in the guest book. Bare in mind that some people just like to complain, so just approach complaints objectively. The advantage of walking the trail after each group, is that you can apportion blame if the group has caused undue littering along the trail or anything else that you might have reason to blame the hikers for.
Any constructions, such as bridges and ladders, need special attention as any structure that fails could leave you liable for damages. Creosote should be applied on a regular basis and anchors need to be inspected to make the structure is safe to use. Heavy rainstorms can cause serious problems to trails. Bridges can be washed away or smashed to pieces, so it is important to inspect the trail after such a storm. If swollen rivers prove to be a major problem it might be necessary to offer hikers an alternative route.
Some hikers have the annoying habit of cutting corners, thereby creating potential for erosion. Brush wood should be placed across these unofficial paths to attempt to block them.
A brush cutter is a useful tool for clearing paths that have become overgrown. A defoliant spray can be used at the end of the growing season to clear the path through thick grassland.
Depending on the type of paint used for trail marking, it will be necessary to remark the trail from time to time. If the trail needs to be rerouted at sometime care needs to be taken to see that old markings need to be erased with a wire brush or painted out with a neutral coloured paint.
Animals can make a mess of a trail. Bushpig and other creature will sometime be found to undo your hard labour by digging up the path in search of roots for food. Baboons will also upturn stones that you have so carefully placed as markers.
Wildlife should be monitored to see that the hiking trail is not having an adverse effect on it. Hikers could be asked to participate in this by being asked to report sightings.
The accommodation needs to be cleaned after each group has used it. If LP gas appliances are provided, they need to be inspected in case of leaks. The gas bottle needs to be inspected to see that there is adequate gas for the next group.
Rubbish bins need to be emptied.
Mattress covers should be washed once a month to prevent lice infection etc.
Braai facilities and Donkey boilers ash pits need to be cleaned and fresh firewood provided according to rules as specified in your brochure.
Ablution facilities need to be cleaned and inspected to make sure that they are working properly. Where Enviroloos are used maintenance should be done according to manufacturers specifications.
Water supply needs to checked regularly to see that it conforms to regulation standards if it is taken from a natural water source.
Grass should be cut around the hut and parking area to prevent damage from possible veld fires. It has been known for veld fires to reach hikers cars causing petrol tanks to explode! Similarly, thatched roofs of huts have been known to succumb to bush fires
For comments and information please contact Tim Hartwright firstname.lastname@example.org