Ruts, bumps, potholes, mud, washboard and dust make unpaved rural roads uncomfortable and sometime even impassable for the motorists who use them. It’s the washouts that occur along with these inconveniences that create a greater long-term problem, however.
Although only certain roads provide direct access to ponds, lakes, and streams, the runoff from all roads eventually finds its way to surface water. Unstable roads become channels through which sediments and nutrients reach sensitive lakes and ponds, causing significant adverse effect on water quality. Increased lakeshore development requires additional roads and driveways for access.
In the old days, back before any country roads were paved, landowners often played an active role in their care. They understood that a few minutes work with a hoe at the beginning of a rainstorm could get the water off of a road and keep wheel ruts from turning into deep gullies. A Ditch in Time…(with apologies to Poor Richard) implies that there are still basic maintenance steps that can be taken to prevent major damage from occurring to our many remaining miles of “dirt roads”. Most of these steps still have to do with controlling water, from getting it off and away from the road to choosing materials that can work well in the presence of too much water and, at times, in its absence.
This discussion is intended to help you evaluate all unpaved roads and implement a program to improve them. A properly planned and well-executed maintenance program not only makes the road more comfortable to travel on, but also reduces maintenance costs over time. More importantly, it also reduces the impact of erosion on fragile lakes and ponds, helping to preserve these splendid resources and the special qualities that attract us to them.
NOTE: A Ditch in Time is based substantially on information provided through the federally and state DOT sponsored Transportation Technology Transfer Centers. While it began as a rewrite of the original “Maine Camp Roads Manual,” it grew to also include much of what I’ve learned during my 30 plus years of road and driveway construction and maintenance. I have presented it in workshop format throughout northern New England in conjunction with the development of the Front Runner grader/rake system.
For quick reference regarding a particular road problem,look at the Gravel Road Troubleshooting Guide.
A. M., CTHA, Bartlett, New Hampshire
D. E., North Conway, New Hampshire
Former DES Commissioner Tom Burack regarding A Ditch in Time,