Conservation and recreation planning potentially share many common goals, including the desire to increase landscape connectivity. Trail networks, however, typically develop independently of ecological corridors, with emphasis placed solely on their human services. The failure to align conservation and human use values results in missed opportunities to maximize the benefits of new trail development. This study uses concepts of green infrastructure and tools of connectivity modeling to identify priority locations for a regional trail network in the James River watershed, Virginia U.S.A. The approach uses methods derived from circuit theory to identify potential pathways that meet basic trail design criteria but are also deemed to be of high conservation value. Results are discussed with respect to three separate regions within the watershed, each with distinct planning challenges. The relatively undeveloped headwaters region allows for the greatest flexibility of trail design. In contrast, the narrow watershed boundary in the coastal zone, along with high levels of development, permit limited options for trail placement. As funding for conservation and recreation development is often limited, multi-purpose trails located strategically within densely settled watersheds provide an opportunity for integrated recreation and conservation planning.

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2014

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2014 Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers. This article first appeared in Southeastern Geographer 54:3 (2014), 270-290.