So cedar is rot resistant but not impervious. Superstorm Sandy sped up the demise of one side of our barn, and it was a good thing. Rotting timbers and beetle damage were revealed and it is fixed and good as new. Now I have some shorter and longer cedar boards that didn't make it into the remodel. I am also in the slow slow process of turning our meadow into garden beds/forest garden. I have been experimenting to good effect with using cardboard boxes from our food co-op's dumpster for pathways, and looking at the pile of cedar board waste I am thinking of using it for paths as well.
Pros- uses a waste product, easily seen and followed, allelopathic effects of cedar may inhibit weeds, will eventually break down
Cons- splinters?, they are stained on one side, possible allelopathic effects on surrounding beds?
Has anyone used boards for pathways? Would anyone use cedar boards with some (old old) stain on them for paths? Any problems or benefits I didn't think of? Anything better to do with cedar boards that are not good for construction any longer?
I've used heavy planks for pathways before, these were "2X6"s and just stayed in place till they composted from the bottom up. I'd beware of thinner or wider planks curling up either lengthwise or crosswise making walking on them difficult. But why not cut them up for the woodstove, unless you don't have one?
I use cedar branches and slash for my driveway, to keep traction in the rainy season. It works good, but its not a permanent solution. If your cedar boards are heavy on heart wood, they will stay on the ground for a good ten years and work for you. They might split, but they'll still be okay for walking on. Any allelopathic effect will go away in the first year or so, and as for pollution from the stain, well, I'm sure you can think of other forms of pollution present on your property. You have stain on your porch, right? But the garden down-hill from there seems to be doing okay. (assuming you have a porch. I'm sure some people do.)
Regarding allelopathy, cedar is demonized a lot on these boards, but chemical warfare is very very common in the vegetable kingdom and can't really be avoided. I would feel worse about erosion along a path than I did about putting cedar wood down on it.
But putting them on the ground might not be the highest and best use for the boards. If you wanted to make a chicken coup, they would probably be functional. If you like snaring rabbits, you could use them as part of an artificial warren.
Splinters? If you are walking around barefoot you will get stuck with something eventually.
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b