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Kim Bowen
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* If this is not in the right place could you direct me, I am new around here* We are buying undeveloped wooded property and I am looking into a more natural way of building a driveway. Besides cutting and piling trees and dozing a huge swath of ground. I realize it needs to be passable and wide enough for trucks if need be. I want to utilize all the trees in some way. But still hoping not to cut the place all up. we have an elderly parent and only walking onto the property is not an option. We need access for emergency vehicles.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Gravel is a clean, natural material. Broken concrete can also be used. Grass and herbs can grow between the pieces.

My road is just a path torn through the native soil and rock. It drains really well. If you are on clay or muck, something will need to be brought in to make a road.
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Kim Bowen
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We had homesteaded a property that some years back that had been an open cornfield. We just drove through the field till the dirt was packed down and the drive sort of made itself. But the typo of this land is like a washboard. Up down curvy. I am wondering not only about the gravel, but the use of culverts in the low places. And dealing with stumps if we can avoid using a bulldozer which I am really against. Or just fallowing the natural ridges of the land. Hear are som images.
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The pie shape is the property line w/ a slow grade up to the point which is the highest point
 
Kim Bowen
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This is a picture so you can see the lay of the land. All advise appreciated.
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Just rols of up and down. No extremly steep or low. But like a wave.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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From the map, I would say to enter the property from as near the upper corner as you can, and keep the driveway close to the contour, with a slight slope down toward the big swale. Below the top, the topography shown will only concentrate the water more and make culverts bigger and more expensive. You probably need at least one culvert, judging from the character of climate shown by the picture. If you have any amount of snow in winter, you will thank yourself every year that you kept the driveway levelish. I would also think that the best building area (dry, view) would be about on a level with that upper contour.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Kim, what other plans do you have for the property? Swales, ponds,etc.? Where is your camp or home or zone 1 going to be?

Do you want the road to go all over the property, to the top, back or just a little bit off of the main access?

I also have a wooded property, I have been working on cutting roads through the trees. I use the cut trees for fence posts, hugelkultur, and building material.

If the ground is fairly dry I just let the grasses come back onto the disturbed soil. The roads end up being two tracks through the forest.

Try to "crown" the road so rain runs off, otherwise you end up with ruts and erosion.
 
Kim Bowen
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I agree the entrance should com in from the upper corner. There is already a place I can drive onto off the road. The culvert will need to be placed in the wet weather creek in the first little valley. Then there are several level possible house seats. But we are not sure how high the creek will get so we tend to think a bit higher. I am very interested in learning how to use the terraced land in the best perm way. I am pretty new at it and I was looking for the forum that might address that topic.
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plans
 
Alfrun Unndis
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If you're near the shore see if clam shells are available at clam processing places. In Southern New England there are lots of clam shell driveways. They are white and behave a bit like gravel. You may need to spread lime to reduce the initial smell if the shells are really fresh. The smell goes away fairly quickly and flies might show if there is a lot of meat still in the haul. The soil near the driveway will also be less acidic.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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That "1200 foot from road" spot looks like it would have marvelous solar exposure, view potential, and zero flooding risk... but how much snow do you tend to get where you are? Plowing that much would be a huge chore in snowy areas. I would also be wary of building so close to the property lines, depending on what might someday happen with the neighboring parcels. I built with my driveway on the only reasonable access point at the top of my property (the driveway is a public road abandoned in the thirties) so my house is 20' from the line. It was fine until the lifelong neighbors got old and sold off to some nasty people, who later built a double-wide 50' from the line and looking straight down into my front door.
 
Glenn Herbert
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What is your attitude toward isolation? The road doesn't look like a major highway, and if it is lightly trafficked you could have a comfortable house on a southern exposure just above the creek and only 100-200' of driveway to maintain but still separated from passersby. It might need some evergreens planted along the road if the existing cover is sparse, but put in some hemlock or whatever is native to your area right now, and it won't be long before you have a good screen. Don't underestimate the value of easy access unless you want to seldom leave the land. A pond in the swale just below the house would help reflect sunlight to the house in wintertime, and should be pleasant year round.

Obviously you want easy access to the rest of the land, so consider whether you feel you need to live in the middle of your active area, or can live on its edge. From the topography, any place that is not actually in a swale or within 10-20' will be safe from flooding. All of the terraced areas are pretty convenient to a location just north of the creekbed, or southeast of it, and the property looks large enough that anything short of fulltime farming could fit in a small zone near the house sites.What part of the country do you live in? That information will inform all future advice.
 
Kim Bowen
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As to our view on isolation, we have that covered. It is a paved one lane Amish biggie road with about 50 Amish farms in front. No house visible from the road. And about a thousand acres of hunting land behind. But we do get a fair amount of snow and I am sure having a drive that long would be too difficult. One of the upper building sites is on the right side of the property and the treas could be cleared for more sun plus they are almost entirely deciduous. But back to the natural drive, thanks for all your advise we are going to try some of your suggestions. No shells though as we are a long way from the sea.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Intent--helping out a driveway that's already here, to capture more of the water running off it and have less of it erode during rainfall.

I had this idea, that we could turn the middle of the drive into some kind of "swale pits". They would be filled with chipped wood, down to a depth of about two feet, surface diameter about the same --2 feet--and be space far enough apart that they wouldn't collapse into one another.

They would be in the center of the road, leaving two tracks for the cars to go around them. In other words, the car tires will be able to drive on the edges of the road just fine, but the middle will soak in more water.

When it rains (it just was a torrential sudden rain after lots of dry days) the water streams down the rivulets on top of the road, and it turns brownish, with dissolved or loosened clay. The road is gravel, though mostly the gravel seems to have disappeared and there are just larger stones and compacted clayish hardpan. The grade is between %7 and %10 in the part I'm looking at, to be conservative, so within the 15% guideline I have read is allowable for swale construction.

The soil around here in general is clayey to the max. It's part wetland, rains hard frequently but not consistently. The road is not on contour nor is it not the ridge line, exactly, unfortunately, and it has been culverted a bit with gravel culverts a while ago. There's fairly good drainage down into somewhere at a spot near the bottom of the drive (I think that must have been put there deliberately--a gravel pit going deep into the ground and into the water table).

The water table here has famously been super-high, when we tried to dig pits high up on the hill above the top of the drive for burying something it filled in with water one time. but now that I think about it that doesn't quite make sense. It's a hill, how can the water table be high at the top of the hill? doesn't that mean that there's actual flow, not a table? So I think that it's false springs rather than the actual "water table" (not sure how the terms are used technically). I saw a puddle up there earlier today. Everything is dry, the upper stream bed bone dry, and yet this puddle was sitting there in the middle of the top of the road filled with water and breeding larvae of the Future Young Mosquito Leaders of America. It is weirdly not draining. Clay.

This is in the Taconics, not at my profile location. We're around Albany, 5b. This was Mohican country before European settlers.

Questions:Is this a workable idea? is it a good enough idea to be worth implementing? what could go wrong? if it means you can't turn around on part of the road (we wouldn't put in the pits everywhere, leaving the intersections as places you can pass another car or turn around) would that be a problem? if you can't pull over just anywhere is that a problem? how much would the wood pits compact if you did drive over them? is swale-ing in soil this clayey a waste of time anyway if we can't also somehow alter it to be more absorbent?


Advantages:
--disrupting the road is not disrupting much of an ecosystem, it's about as lifeless as it can get
--it's hard to swale in other places because we'd certainly disrupt tree roots, whole trees, or small plants, some of which are endangered species (jack in the pulpit, trillium, etc.)
--can soak in more of the vast amounts of water that come onto the land sporadically
--could help the health of the soil deeper down and potentially have benefits spreading out to the sides of the road if the soil takes up more water

Disadvantages:
--clay, clay, and clay
--potential problems for cars going up and down; you couldn't turn around on parts of the road
 
Rufus Laggren
Posts: 481
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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Might want to ask the moderator to make this a new separate topic. Some quick thoughts:

> problems for drivers

Very big issue IMHO. If the center were forgiving enough that people did not get stuck, might work (at least traffic-wise) - otherwise a big problem. Therefore, might want to "start small", do a short stretch (100'?) at a most likely point and then watch it for a year or so, see what happens. If it fails for any various reason, easier to correct a small area. Getting stuck can really screw up the day. Guests are more likely to suffer and that can't help the social atmosphere and it still takes up _your_ time. Any service truck drivers would take a _really_ dim view of home made vehicle traps. Keeping wheels _always_ on track is not something most drivers do as a rule. And different vehicles have different track widths.

Sounds like you may not be able to design a construct of any kind capable of absorbing your rain events "in real time" no matter what you do. Just a guess, based on your description of the soil, water table and rains. Your "french drains" in the center of the road could help but maybe not really solve your issue. Therefor plan for the water to pool somewhere and settle over time. If you are right about the gravel pit at the bottom, that is just what a previous designer had in mind.

Road maintenance might get pretty fiddly. Also, tree roots probably go under the road, albeit a little deeper than otherwise. Digging down far enough to effect water absorption might take out many roots. A "normal" road with water management features to one or both sides may be cheapest in the long run for both you and your environment. Might go touristing about your locale looking at driveways and roads similar to your situation; see what seems to be happening.

Then, of course, there's the cost factor...
 
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