This is a great time to have access to trails and a challenging time to manage them.
For the past year the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, in an effort to better understand how the increased number of people getting out on trails during the Pandemic was impacting those recreational resources, has been studying trail counter data and surveying trail managers from across the state to put those impacts into perspective.
PEC has now produced an update, following up on our initial research published in the spring of 2020, that looks at the core of the 2020 season:
Some 67 different trail managers took part in our survey this time, and data from 28 different trail counters were evaluated to get a full picture of the impacts.
Across the full season, on the trails that had consistent numbers, we saw a 17% increase in trail use, but that some individual trails recorded over 150% increases when comparing single months. But even with all that use, the outlook of the trail managers themselves improved significantly, especially once they were able to re-orient volunteer events and maintenance projects to deal with the new realities.
All this increased use just confirms a position that trail advocates and outdoor enthusiasts have known for years; public spaces and specifically trails are critical infrastructure for communities around the Commonwealth. An emphasis needs to be put on improving trail connectivity and ensuring trails are maintained for years to come. We all benefit when the trailhead is your front door.
The 2020 impact report is available to download here.