Virtual Vacation: The Secret of Boardwalks
The remarkable potential of the simple construction of wood. Investigating boardwalks. By Olav Bringa, Senior Adviser in The Norwegian Ministry of Culture
A well-designed path can give you a safe and comfortable walk in the woods and at the same time reduce the wear on nature. A boardwalk will give protection to vulnerable ground surfaces. If well designed, these simple wooden constructions can safely introduce the beauty of nature, exciting wildlife, and impressive cultural heritage to more people.
Some places and walks are more attractive than others. In "The General Theory of Walkability" Jeff Speck explains that a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. The theory is based on preferences for walking in cities but applies to a great extent to walking in general.
Visiting the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park in the past can hardly be called safe. The water in the largest hot spring in the United States is 70 degrees Celsius (158 Fahrenheit!) and requires caution from any visitor. The bright, vivid colors around the edges of the mineral-rich water are definitely interesting and the spring rightfully became a "hot" attraction. A simple but well-designed boardwalk takes the visitors as close to the spring as is advisable. It is installed above ground level to let water pass under it.
[Editor's note: There are no guardrails along this portion, but guardrails are in place elsewhere. What if you fell in? How about some type of barrier along the entire length? I don't think I would go if I had any stamina or balance issues. We will soon publish narratives for the other boardwalk locations shown below.]