CT Trail Census

UConn Extension Releases Evidence-Based Information Sheets on the Impacts of Trails

Meriden TrailUConn Extension and the National Park Service are pleased to announce the publication of the Impacts of Trails info-sheet series. As communities throughout the U.S. and the world cope with the devastating toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has brought a renewed focus on the importance of local trails. 

These one-page color, downloadable resources provide evidencebased information on the impacts of trails on physical and mental health, building community, stimulating economies, and fostering climate resilience. Each includes key data points from existing literature, a case study and a short list of recommendations. Communities highlighted include Meriden, Connecticut, New Haven, Connecticut, Canton, Connecticut, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The health info-sheet includes six major benefits that trails have on promoting health. It recommends that communities animate trails with programs, increase public awareness about trails, and engage people not currently using trails. A case study on the Walk and Talk with a Doc initiative between Get Healthy CT and Yale Medicine in New Haven documents how trails have improved health outcomes for residents.

Trails drive economic development in communities through their positive impact on property values, expenditures at local businesses, and quality of life, among other attributes. The authors recommend that communities take a systems approach, connect their trails with downtown amenities, and engage and involve anchor institutions and local property owners in trail development. The Farmington Canal Trail in Canton provides further evidence of how the trail increased economic activity in the town.

Woman in Meriden“Our vision was a trail network that offered something for everyone in the community, from easy walks around Lake Mansfield to a rigorous hike along our piece of the Appalachian Trail,” says Christine Ward, Director of the Great Barrington Trails and Greenways in Massachusetts. Trails in any community are catalysts for increasing environmental awareness, creating connections, and strengthening community resilience. Steps to build community with trails include programming, analyzing trail use, and thinking community wide.

Climate change will bring many public health and safety threats to our communities and trails enhance resiliency through mitigation and by providing habitats for plants and wildlife. Trails also help decrease the carbon footprint of residents as more use the trails for travel. Communities enhance resiliency on their trails by making them feel safe and protected, encouraging residents to replace short vehicle trips, and connecting to transportation networks. A case study of Meriden shows how the trails and open space saved the downtown from flooding. 

 

View all the impact sheets with the full benefits of trails and recommendations for community leaders at https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/trail-impact-series/.

 

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Riverfront Recapture’s partnership with UConn Extension’s CT Trail Census

Lady with glasses smiling at man with glasses and people in the background Riverfront Recapture‘s partnership with UConn Extension’s CT Trail Census has advanced our mission to improve the quality of life and urban vitality for those who live, work and play in central Connecticut. Specifically, Trail Census data has supported successful funding requests, including our 2019 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award, and was integral to our recent request to the EPA to support cleanup efforts that will allow us to expand our park and trail system along the Connecticut River in Hartford. It also helps us understand community needs by complementing the qualitative findings of a community survey on outdoor recreation by Trinity College.

View the findings.

 

Meet Neva Taylor: Extension Intern and Podcast Host

girl taking a selfie Hi! My name is Neva Taylor and I am one of the summer interns with the CT Trail Census and UConn CAHNR Extension. At UConn, I am a double major in Urban and Community Studies (UCS) and Sociology, and in the Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) fast track program. At UConn I am on the women’s rugby team and the triathlon team; because of COVID I have switched to mainly running, running my first virtual half marathon back in May. Other than sports, I also am involved with the Big Brother Big Sister mentoring program where I have a “little sister” at a local elementary school. I also had my own radio show last semester called Woman of the Week (WOW) where I highlighted different amazing women out there doing amazing things each week.
Thanks to my broadcasting experience, I am starting a new podcast for the CT Trail Census called “On the Trail”. On the podcast we will cover a broad array of topics both on and off the beaten path about all things having to do with nature, trails, and the outdoors. Last week’s episode was all about finding the right trail for you and what resources (apps and websites) can help you along the way. In the coming weeks we will be discussing issues like youth engagement, trail maintenance, representation and inclusivity in the outdoors community, and much more. My hopes for this podcast are that people can get in tune with nature in their backyards and communities and learn new things that they may have never thought to question. Each episode launches every Friday at 12pm so I hope you’ll join us “On the Trail!”

Learn more about the Connecticut Trail Census at https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/ and the
podcast at https://uconnextension.podbean.com/.

COVID-19 Trail Impact Report: April-May 2020

CT trail census logoCONNECTICUT TRAIL CENSUS RELEASES 

COVID-19 TRAIL IMPACT REPORT FOR APRIL-MAY 2020 

We are pleased to release the latest data on how several of the state’s most popular multi-use trails are being impacted by COVID-19. The new report documents trail use during April-May 2020 at 12 sites on multi-use trails in Connecticut, and compares use with the same period in 2019, as one indication of the changes in trail use occurring simultaneously with the outbreak of COVID-19. “The trend of increased trail use occurring simultaneously with the March outbreak of COVID-19 is continuing,” observed Charles Tracy, Coordinator for the Trail Census, “The Trail Census team wanted to share these initial findings as soon as the data was available.” Overall, three quarters of the trails participating in this study recorded an increase of greater than 50%, compared to April-May 2019.

The report released today is part of an ongoing trail research project conducted by the Connecticut Trail Census. Other Trail Census projects include “On the Trail” a new weekly podcast; organizing a multi-state conference on bicycle and pedestrian data collection; a new data visualization portal; and work on creating a statewide trails website.

The Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program. The program collects information about trail use through trail use counts recorded by infrared counters and user intercept surveys administered by trained volunteers. The goal is to develop an accurate picture of who uses trails in Connecticut, and to advance and inform new trail policy, design and construction throughout the state. 

Initiated in 2017 as a partnership between UConn Extension, Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, Connecticut Greenways Council, and local trails advocacy organizations, the Trail Census has expanded to over 20 data collection sites on trails across the state. The program receives funding from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program. For more information, visit www.cttrailcensus.uconn.edu   

Link: COVID-19 Trail Impact Report: April-May 2020

Charlie Tracy Recognized for Trail Work

Plaque recognizing Charlie Tracy for his work on the trails and collaborations in Massachusetts

This weekend at the Mass Trails Conference in Leominster Charlie Tracy, our new Connecticut Trail Census Coordinator, received an achievement award to recognize his over 30 years of dedication to trails work and building successful collaborative partnerships in Massachusetts and across the nation. Charlie is well loved in the trail community and we are so lucky that he has chosen the next stage of his career following retirement from the National Park Service, to include this work in Connecticut. Charlie and Laura Brown, our Community and Economic Development Extension Educator also presented a successful session on the Trail Census at the conference.

CT Trail Census Receives Grant

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

Our Connecticut Trail Census program recently received $206,049.50 in grant funding from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) Trails & Greenways Program and the Connecticut Greenways Council. UConn Extension’s Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide volunteer-based data collection and education program implemented as a pilot from 2016-2018 on 16 multi-use (bicycle, pedestrian, equestrian) trail sites across the state.

Laura Brown Recognized for Trail Census Work

Laura Brown receiving award for CT Trail Census work
Laura Brown receives her award from Bruce Donald of the CT Greenways Council.

The Governor’s Greenways Council on Friday commended eight individuals, and a volunteer committee of the Last Green Valley, that have made significant contributions to the promotion, development and enhancement of Greenways – linear open space in Connecticut – and designated three new State greenways at a ceremony at the Nathan Lester House, in Ledyard.

Laura E. Brown, MS, CEcD, Community & Economic Development Educator, University of Connecticut – Department of Extension, Fairfield County Extension Center – received the CT Greenways Council’s Education Award for development of the CT Trail Census (https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/ )
“Our State Designated Greenways provide great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, whether you want to commute to work, exercise or shop using a bicycle, or simply go for a walk on a beautiful day,” said. Susan Whalen, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). “Greenways and trails provide opportunities to local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the fresh air, while helping to boost the economy throughout Connecticut by visiting local restaurants and shops along the way.”
Bruce Donald, Chair of the CT Greenways Council, and Tri-State Coordinator for the East Coast Greenway Alliance stated: “Trails reinvigorate our souls. They strengthen our bodies. They build our communities in myriad ways we didn’t comprehend even ten years ago. They are a part of the fabric of Connecticut.”
Greenways in Connecticut cover thousands of acres throughout every county in the state and may include paved or unpaved trail systems, ridgelines, or linked parcels of open space. Many communities around Connecticut have chosen, through greenway designation, to also recognize the importance of river corridors for natural resource protection, recreational opportunities, and scenic values. The CT Greenways Council website contains details on how to get designations, assistance and a map of our State Greenways.  www.ct.gov/deep/greenways

Statewide Multi-Use Trail Data Available

Data Collection Program Releases 2017 Data Shedding Light on Statewide Multi-use Trail Use

 

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

The Connecticut Trail Census (CTTC), a program tracking use on multi-use trails statewide, has released publically available data for the 2017 calendar year on their website http://www.cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/.  The CTTC collects data regarding trail use patterns including who is using these trails, when people are using them, how, and why at multi-use trails across Connecticut. The Census currently includes 15 trail locations on 11 multi-use trails. Trail use is tracked with infrared counters and by trail user intercept surveys deployed by volunteers. In 2017, the program recorded 1.4 million trips taken on trail segments where counts are being conducted, and analyzed 1,003 trail user surveys collected by over 63 volunteers from trail advocacy groups around the state. The trails with the highest volumes were the Naugatuck River Greenway in Derby (303,550 uses), the Still River Greenway in Brookfield (197,945 uses) and the Hop River Trail in Vernon (133,016 uses).

“We hope this data will be used by communities and trail advocacy groups, researchers, and funding organizations to show the impacts of multi-use trails on public health, transportation systems, and local communities,” said Kristina Kelly, the Statewide Coordinator of the Census.

The program is funded by a 2016 Recreational Trails Grant received from the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and is overseen by the Connecticut Greenways Council. It is being undertaken in a partnership between UConn Extension, The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, and the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Outreach (CLEAR).

The infrared counters record hourly totals of trail use year-round, and show use patterns seasonally, by time of day, and day of week. The heaviest use occurred between

volunteers collect CT Trail Census data in 2017 on a multi-use trail
Volunteers collect data in 2017. Photo: Aaron Budris

the months of April and October when approximately 76% of trail uses across all sites were recorded. Because all trails involved in the program are of similar typology (multi-use, two-directional, and either paved or stone dust), the trail use data can be utilized to explore variables that may affect trail use. For example, trails that offer connection between towns and cities such as the New Britain Fastrak and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, seem to show less difference in the number of users between weekday and weekend. The counters are installed semi-permanently, which also will allow trails to measure the effects of future trail improvements.

The 2017 intercept survey data showed trail users who completed the survey tended to be older than the general population of Connecticut with 63% of trail users being over the age of 45 versus only 44% of the general population. While the majority of users got to the trail by car or motorcycle alone (49%), an encouraging 31% traveled in a car with someone else. Demonstrating the potential economic value of trails, 61.5% of all respondents reported spending $277 annually related to their trail use.

The 2018 Trail Census Program will launch the second week of May at trail sites across the state. Trails with an interest in participating should contact the Census Coordinator Kristina Kelly at cttrailcensus@gmail.com. Existing data including infrared counter and survey data reports, and recording of a recent webinar with in-depth discussion of the available data are on the Connecticut Trail Census website at http://www.cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/. All data collected is free and available to explore and download.

CT Trail Census Update

By Kristina Kelly, Connecticut Trail Census Statewide Coordinator

Naugatuck Greenway
Naugatuck Greenway

Fall is a busy time for the Connecticut Trail Census team as we are nearing the end of our pilot year. We are so excited to have this important data finalized and ready for release in January 2018 so that our local communities can begin to put the data to use improving their local trail systems.

In September, volunteers and trail enthusiasts performed Intercept Surveys at our 15 participating trail sites. These surveys feature multiple choice and open-ended questions such as the user’s age range, motivation for using the trail, frequency of trail use, and whether they planned on spending money on that trip to the trail (such as stopping at a coffee shop in a community along the way). These questions are intended to collect valuable qualitative data that the Infrared (IR) Counters cannot. So far, we have received over 400 surveys from this fall session and the data is currently being compiled into a database for organization and presentation.

In other news, we are looking forward to presenting at the 2nd Annual CT Trails Symposium on October 19th. In addition to speaking about the current progress and planning for the future of the program, we will be unveiling a preview of how and where the survey data will be available to the public in January. Click here for more information on the Symposium and register to join us!

In the public outreach department, we have released a CT Trail Census Facebook page where we post program updates, connections with statewide trail groups, and useful articles regarding trail use! Check us out on Facebook and be sure to click “like” so our posts show up in your newsfeed.

Finally, at the end of this month, we will be collecting another round of quantitative data from the IR counters that are counting trail uses 24/7 on our trail sites! We will then perform preliminary analysis and continue working on calibrating and correcting this data for our final report release in January.

Stay tuned for more updates and feel free to reach out to me or visit our website if you would like more information or to get involved!