Bayfield and Sawyer Counties Join with Area Recreational Trails Groups to Improve Wayfinding and Safety on Local Trails
P.O. Box 141 Cable, WI 54821 / (715) 798-3599 / firstname.lastname@example.org
In an effort to improve trail users’ ability to find their way on the many non-motorized recreational trails in Bayfield and Sawyer Counties, and more importantly identify their location in the event of an emergency, county emergency management, land records and sheriff’s offices have been meeting regularly with local trail organizations since last fall. Their efforts to date have been extremely productive, resulting in the adoption of a new system of Emergency Location Markers that can be utilized in remote areas to better pinpoint a user’s location and aid in search and rescue.
The Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA), has been centrally involved with the project. With more than 130 miles of singletrack trails running through the backcountry of Bayfield County Forest, Sawyer County Forest and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, it has been no small task to ensure trail users know where they are and get where they want to go. Over the years, CAMBA has spent considerable resources adding small kiosks with maps and trail location numbers at key intersections across the sizeable trail network. But with such a large system, it has always been felt that there was room for improvement to make wayfinding easier.
But most significantly, due to the complex nature of overlapping and interconnecting ski and bike trails throughout the region, there has been a resounding need to devise a system to aid local first responders and help reduce response times when there is an injured or lost trail user.
After considerable research and discussion at monthly meetings of the Intercounty Trail Signage Committee, it was agreed to adopt the United States National Grid (USNG) location marking system. The USNG is similar to the Military Grid Reference System – a location referencing and reporting system based on a grid overlay of the entire world. It has been used by U.S./NATO Armed Forces for ground operations around the world because it is much easier to use accurately and less prone to human errors than traditional GPS latitude and longitude, providing a universal language of geographic reference for emergency responders.
It has become a formidable project that in the end will see the installation of several hundred blue USNG Emergency Location Marker (ELM) signs on the CAMBA, American Birkebeiner, North End and U.S. Forest Service ski, bike and hiking trails. Signs will be installed at all major intersections, and generally no further than one-half mile apart.
The ELM system will be integrated with County 911 dispatch system. Law enforcement, dispatchers, EMT and ambulance responders and all fire departments and search and rescue teams will receive training in how to employ this system during emergencies. To insure proper implementation, mock rescues will be staged to test the system. Any necessary tweaks will then be made before ordering and installing the remaining 300 or more signs across the rest of the CAMBA and other area trail systems.
Finally, there will also be a public information campaign to let trail users know how to use the system in case of emergency. Anyone who has a problem on the trail will be instructed to call 911 and relay the closest USNG Emergency Location Marker number. Dispatchers and EMS crews will use that information in conjunction with an emergency response guidebook to find the best access points as well as information about what type of vehicle can be used to reach an injured person.
CAMBA has begun including related emergency and wayfinding information on new maps and trailhead signage. Trail users will also be encouraged to download a USNG app, such as USNG Me to their phones, which works without cell coverage and will quickly tell the user their exact location on the USNG grid.
CAMBA is grateful to those who donated to the Joe Timmerman Memorial Fund, Shared Geo and New Moon Ski and Bike Shop for their assistance in helping fund the ELM signs.
A great deal of gratitude, and credit, go to Bayfield County, Sawyer County, and Shared Geo for their help and advice in developing the new safety protocol.