Metro Parks Tacoma

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Trail Runner Guidelines

Tacoma has a very diverse and rich system of parks, many of them with trails suitable for running. The Tacoma Nature Center has soft-surface trails which many runners enjoy, but it is designated as a Nature Preserve. This means that the intended purpose of this special place is passive recreation like bird-watching, walking with the family, educational field trips and more! The trails also welcome runners year-round, but we invite runners to remember that the primary purpose of the preserve is passive recreation and rules and guidelines exist to protect the resource for its intended use.

The rules for park use can be found  here. For runners, we ask that the following guidelines also be kept in mind to protect the Nature Preserve and to allow all users to be able to experience this oasis in the middle of the city.

The following are excerpted from The American Trail Running Association. They were edited to take out the parts not applicable to the Nature Center property. For the complete list, visit the ATRA website.

“Rules on the Run” are principles of trail running etiquette that foster environmentally-sound and socially-responsible trail running. These principles emulate the well-established principles of Leave No Trace, and Rules of the Trail by the IMBA. The American Trail Running Association believes that by educating trail runners to observe “Rules on the Run,” trail runners will be able to enjoy continued access to their favorite trails and trail running competitions.

Well marked trails already exist; they are not made on the day you head out for a run, i.e., making your own off-trail path. There is nothing cool about running off trail, bushwhacking over and under trees, or cutting switchbacks up the side of a hill or mountain. Such running creates new trails, encourages others to follow in your footsteps (creating unmarked “social trails”), and increases the runner’s footprint on the environment. When multiple trails exist, run on the one that is the most worn. Stay off closed trails and obey all posted regulations.

Run single file in the middle of a trail, even when laden with a fresh blanket of snow or mud. Go through puddles and not around them. Running around mud, rocks, or downed tree limbs widens trails, impacts vegetation, and causes further and unnecessary erosion. Use caution when going over obstacles, but challenge yourself by staying in the middle of the trail. If the terrain is exceedingly muddy, refrain from running on the trails so that you don’t create damaging “potholes” in the surface. Moisture is the chief factor that determines how traffic (from any user group) affects a trail. For some soil types, a 100-pound runner can wreak havoc on a trail surface in extremely wet conditions. In dry conditions the same trail might easily withstand a 1,200-pound horse/rider combination. There are many situational factors to consider when making your trail running decision. Trails that have been constructed with rock work, or those with soils that drain quickly, may hold up to wet conditions – even a downpour. But, in general, if the trail is wet enough to become muddy and hold puddles ALL user groups should avoid it until the moisture has drained.

Respect trail and road closures and avoid trespassing on private land. Make sure the trails you run on are officially designated routes, not user created routes. When in doubt, ask the land managing agency or individuals responsible for the area you are using.

Do not disturb or harass wildlife. Avoid trails that cross known wildlife havens during sensitive times such as nesting or mating.

A quick moving trail runner, especially one who seemingly emerges from out of nowhere on an unsuspecting trail user, can be quite alarming. Give a courteous and audible announcement well in advance of your presence and intention to pass hikers on the trail stating something like, “On your left,” or “Trail” as you approach the trail users. Keep in mind your announcement doesn’t work well for those who are wearing headphones and blasting music. Show respect when passing, by slowing down or stopping if necessary to prevent accidental contact. Be ready to yield to all other trail users (bikers, hikers, horses) even if you have the posted right of way. Uphill runners yield to downhill runners in most situations.

The next step after not startling someone is letting them know that they have a friend on the trail. Friendly communication is the key when trail users are yielding to one another. A “Thank you” is fitting when others on the trail yield to you. A courteous, “Hello, how are you?” shows kindness which is particularly welcome.

Pack out at least as much as you pack in. Gel wrappers with their little torn-off tops, and old water bottles don’t have a place on the trail. Consider wearing apparel with pockets that zip or a hydration pack that has a place to secure litter you find on the trail.

Split larger groups into smaller groups. Larger groups can be very intimidating to hikers and have a greater environmental impact on trails. Most trail systems, parks, and wilderness areas have limits on group size. Familiarize yourself with the controlling policy and honor it.
Note - the Tacoma Nature Center requests that runners use the trails in small groups of 5 or less with no more than 20 runners using the trail at one time.

Know the area you plan to run in and let at least one other person know where you are planning to run and when you expect to return. Run with a buddy if possible. Take a map with you in unfamiliar areas. Be prepared for the weather and conditions prevailing when you start your run and plan for the worst, given the likely duration of your run. Carry plenty of water, electrolyte replacement drink, or snacks for longer runs. Rescue efforts can be treacherous in remote areas. ATRA does not advise the use of headphones or iPods. The wearer typically hears nothing around them to include approaching wildlife, and other humans. The most important safety aspect is to know and respect your limits. Report unusually dangerous, unsafe, or damaging conditions and activities to the proper authorities.

Leave natural or historic objects as you find them, this includes wildflowers and native grasses. Removing or collecting trail markers is serious vandalism that puts others at risk.

Volunteer, support, & encourage others to participate in trail maintenance days.