Gravel Road

Center Info

The Center’s primary sponsors are the PA State Conservation Commission and PA Bureau of Forestry through the PA Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Road Maintenance Program.  The Center also maintains a variety of short-term contract with other entities to provide education or research services.  See the tabs on the left for general information about the center.

Center Services

The Center maintains a variety of educational and research projects with a number of sponsors including:

  • Trainings and projects with public entities in 8 states.

  • Training and projects with a variety of private entities in PA and beyond.

  • Road project design with the PA Game Commission.

  • Trail design and maintenance training and technical assistance.

  • Shale Gas access road training and technical assistance.

  • Research on sediment and dust production from unpaved roads (and other issues) from sponsors such as the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the US Forest Service, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the PA DEP, The Nature Conservancy, the Great Lakes Commission, and more.

  • Involvement with Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.

  • Development of a special topics course that will be taught through the Ecosystem Science and Management Department at Penn State University in Fall 2016.

Center Services to the Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Road Program

Education and Training

The primary education tool of the Program is the two-day ESM course developed, maintained, and presented by the Center.  The Center also hosts an Annual Maintenance Workshop for Program participants that include multiple classroom sessions and field demonstration projects.  The Center is also involved in various other trainings and educational efforts such as District Administrative Training, GIS Trainings, and topic-specific trainings and webinars.  Details of these educational services can be found in Section 3.6.


The Center performs various activities in an effort to promote the Program and environmentally sensitive road maintenance principles.  Such activities include participating in various professional meetings and trade shows; representing Program interests on various nationwide panels and committees; and creating and distributing promotional materials for the Program.

Penn State Course

The Center has developed a special topics course that will be taught through the Ecosystem Science and Management Department at Penn State University in Fall 2016.  Using the Center’s Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) practices as the foundation of the course, the next generation of road managers will be taught to properly control road drainage in order to protect the environment by keeping runoff and road materials out of adjacent surface waters and the surrounding landscape. In addition, the course will address the fundamentals of hydrology, geology, soils, and erosion processes as they pertain to roads and streams. This course is an upper level course intended for students in majors such as Forestry, Agriculture, Civil / Environmental Engineering, Land use Planning, and Environmental Studies.

Project Technical Assistance

Center staff is available to help conservation district staff with project planning, design, implementation and inspection.  This technical assistance can be in the form of phone, e-mail, or site visits.  The Center typically provides on-site assistance with projects that involve new District staff, new or innovative techniques, or especially complicated projects.  Some typical services performed on technical assistance on-site visits include: on-site training of new CD staff; project evaluation and planning; grant application review; interactions with applicants; conflict resolution; project stationing and site-plan development; DSA prep and placement assistance; project implementation and oversight assistance; and review of completed projects.  It is important to note that the focus of providing this technical assistance is to build capacity at the District.  Center staff will work through the conservation district for all interactions with Program applicants.

Program Technical Assistance

In addition to project-related technical assistance, the Center is also available to answer any Program-related questions or address issues the District and applicants may have on a wide variety of topics.   This technical assistance can be done via phone, e-mail, or even by in-office visits when large issues or new CD staff is involved. If a policy interpretation or administrative assistance is needed, the Center will forward questions and concerns to staff at the State Conservation Commission.

Written and Digital Reference Material

The Center creates and distributes a wide variety of reference material that is available both in print and online including:

  • ESM training guidebook.

  • Technical Bulletins on specific ESM practices.

  • Write-ups about innovative projects.

  • Quarterly newsletters containing Program updates.

  • Annual Summary Reports for the Program.

  • Cooperation with Commission on Program policy and guidance documents.


The Center maintains a comprehensive website including reference material for the Program as well as other Center activities.

GIS and Reporting

The Program uses a customized GIS system to track the locations, deliverables, and expenditures for all road project work.  The Center is responsible for the development, maintenance, and training of this GIS system; as well as the collection of the Annual Summary Report from conservation districts.  The Center also works with the Commission to develop reports to provide to the State Legislature and others based on county data.


The Center, in conjunction with the Commission, maintains several advisory workgroups to the Program.  Conservation district staff makes up the majority of the workgroups.  The workgroups act in an advisory capacity only, making recommendations to the Commission for approval.  There are four active workgroups that meet on an as-needed basis.  The Education and Outreach workgroup deals with the ESM Course content and format, the Annual Maintenance Workshop planning, and various other outreach and education efforts such as GIS trainings, roundtables, and more.  The Policy and Planning Workgroup deals with allocation and policy recommendations to the Commission.  The Low Volume Road Workgroup was created in 2014 specifically to handle issues related to the new Low Volume Road Program.  The Product and Process workgroup deals with technical issues such as Driving Surface Aggregate and approving products for use with Program funds.

DSA Clearinghouse

The Center maintains a “DSA Clearinghouse” that is designed to facilitate DSA purchasing and placements around the State by creating a central point of contact and information for aggregate suppliers and conservation districts.


The Center performs a limited amount of research on practices and policies that directly affect the Program.  Research topics vary widely from road sediment quantification, to cost-benefit analyses, to development of new and innovative practices.


While the Quality Assurance/Quality Control process is led by Commission staff, the Center still plays a significant role in the Process.  The Center has worked with the Commission to develop the QA/QC process.  Center staff is part of the QA/QC visit team and typically assume a role related to the evaluation of completed project sites.

Product and Process Approvals

All products and materials purchased with Program funds must adhere to the Program’s non pollution standards.  The product and process workgroup develops product testing protocols.  These protocols are then reviewed by the Commission.  When a product is submitted for approval, the workgroup reviews the product according to Commission approved protocols.