How do we remove closed trails from OSM

There are numerous examples of these in our area - directing people to trails that are causing resource damage, have been physically closed, and/or are on private land. How can we remove these, and more importantly, how can we be sure that they will not reappear?

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You bring in a few different causes. First of all and very important: The paths should not be deleted under any circumstances, otherwise they will appear again and again in case of doubt.

If the path is private then an acces tag should be set. Here fits probably access=private

If the road does not exist any more there are the lifecycle prefixes disused:highway or abandoned:highway

What is the legal situation, because of resource damage?


In addition to what mcliquid said, if it’s public land, but they’ve closed the trail, it should be tagged with access=no,
Can you provide an example? What app is “directing people to trails that are causing resource damage”

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You don’t say where you are located, but OSM-US has set up a Trails Working Group and they make some specific recommendations which I think would be a useful starting point.

Usually, the most important one, is not to remove mapped trails as this may not work as you intend as people may just add them back thinking they’re missing, rather than that their status has changed or been challenged. Additional tags on trails can also assist in keeping people where you want them.

It’s also useful to identify any mobile phone apps people are using as the vagaries of how they consume OSM data may affect things (for instance, many suggest that farm tracks in the UK are OK for hikers, when usually they are not).


Also, if path is actually physically not existing - it is fine to delete it from OSM.


& in answer to this one, there is no possible way of doing so, because anybody can draw a line on the map & call it a “path”.

Well shoot – then there is really not point in my spending the time to delete the unauthorized trails. Thank you for your help.

It sounds like someone can add it right back in though, so whats the point?

All Trails – some of their “Routes” utilize barely discernable paths that we long ago signed on either end as closed here in Boise.

Because if it’s done properly (access=no + disused / abandoned) it will (slowly) update those maps / routers that use OSM & have an effect. That won’t though, of course, stop those people who just ignore “track closed” signs :cry: :rage:

How are those paths currently tagged in OSM?


If you set an appropriate tag on the line of “what used to be there” correctly, it won’t get re-added back. For example, here is a trail that I marked as closed a couple of years ago. Technically, I suspect there’s a legal right of way along it, because I suspect it’s across “access land”, but it is clearly signed as a closed trail.

The old trail is still visible on old Bing imagery, so to prevent someone adding it back as a footpath I changed the tag from “highway=footway” to “disused:highway=footway” and added a note. What I did worked - no-one has added it back in the last two years.


the same goes for blatant vandalism (in one case someone needed to be reverted over 10 times and got banned on 5 accounts before they went away)

all correct edits can be broken, that is not a good reason to not make them

I can well understand you and also see it critically when vast amounts of OSM data exist only with a disused: or abandoned: or other lifecycle prefix. But in the case of structures that are demolished, that are still visible on the aerial photo, or trails that exist in some navigation system or hiking navi, I would make an exception here and use a lifecycle prefix.

As a small example: I work in my region almost always with the aerial photos of the state government ( updated in 2020). In some places Maxar is actually newer. Sometimes I search the Maxar images for differences and enter them. If someone else then looks again with the official (and also suggested in iD) aerial images, either the demolished building is still there or the new building is missing and my changes are deleted.
The same happens here with paths that no longer exist, but still exist in the paper maps of the state government, because they are from 2015.


If feature is visible in aerial imagery or LIDAR or official data used for mapping in a given area then lifecycle prefix is a good idea. Ideally - with a note mentioning which source is blocking its removal. I am doing it with my own editing.