The Commission is counting! Spring of 2015 the Commission purchased three infrared trail counters utilizing State Planning and Research Funds, administered by VDOT. Knowing the average number of weekday opposed annual users is helpful for various reasons. The counters were initially purchased to help document the number of trail users throughout the region. Knowing how many people use a trail provides a link between the investment of public dollars and benefit to the community. The trail count data can also be combined with local revenue data to determine potential economic impacts of existing trails.
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (AT) website, most long-distance hikers spend about $1,000 per month. In May, about 200 hikers passed through the New River Valley each week. Some of them may have even stopped by our AT Communities to refresh and resupply. If each hiker spent a week’s worth it would have a $50,000 per week local economic impact on the Towns’ of Pearisburg and Narrows. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy website estimates that one in four hikers attempt to “thru-hike” and complete the full 2,185 miles.
Over the last year we learned a lot about the technology. For examples, if you pass one of the counters with a partner, do so in single file so that both of you will be counted! So far, the counters were set up along six trails and have recorded nearly 21,000 users. Depending on the trail, the number of users ranged from nearly 100 to more than 850 per day. Trail usage volumes easily compare to many secondary roads in the region, which can be important to consider when prioritizing transportation improvements. Trail Counter Program reports are always available online here: https://nrvrc.wpengine.com/what-we-do/transportation-2/.
For further information, please contact Elijah Sharp (firstname.lastname@example.org), 540-639-9313, ext. 210.