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Project Logic: Logging Roads – Useful or a Money SinkWritten by Rod Johnston
It’s common for mountain properties to be accessed by one or more logging roads. At first glance, these roads appear to be found money. Why? Because logging roads offer instant out-of-the package mountain access without the upfront cost of engineering, road construction, and project management. Heck, with some minor grading, a skiff of gravel, a lift of asphalt, and a few lot lines, somebody could develop a project rather quickly. What a deal. Or is it?
Before examining existing logging roads, it’s important to understand what a logging road is. In some cases, they were intended to be mainline or collector roads. Beginning at the lowest elevation in a drainage or at the base of a mountain, these roads were built wider than other unimproved roads, but no wider then necessary. As dirt ribbons carved out of wilderness, logging roads often served as the only path for those driving into the high country and for those coming out, loaded with logs, in route to mill locations. As topography increased, became “broken,” or as side drainages appeared, loggers constructed primary spur or “branch roads” off of these valley mainlines. Then, from these primary branch roads, secondary and tertiary branch roads were constructed with each one usually built steeper and narrower than the former. The most primitive logging roads were built in rugged terrain and at higher elevations where rock and steepness equated to very expensive and difficult road building. At a certain point determined by land ownership, season of year, and anticipated duration of work, loggers stopped building roads and instead, used bulldozers and rubber tired machinery to simply drag, or “skid” logs out of the woods and down to their trucks. These trails are referred to as skid trails. Timber volume ultimately dictated how much money a logger invested in his road and on balance, it wasn’t much.
Click Here for the rest of the articleRod Johnston directs the Asheville Land Development Conference. His experience ranges from designing and constructing mountain infrastructure to managing environmental and sensitive area remediation. Well acquainted with overseeing steep-slope development in the Puget Sound and Chesapeake watersheds, he is experienced in mixed-use, dense-urban, retail, commercial, industrial, resort, master-planned, and retirement community development. A graduate of both the Universities of Idaho and Washington, he has authored two books: the Road Repair Handbook and Preparing Projects for Site Construction.