A Yearly Review
The Connecticut Trail Census (CTTC) is a volunteer-based program that brings transparent trail use data to the community and state through a network of infrared trail counters statewide and through implementation of trail-based user surveys. CTTC was created four years ago, and the data generated each year is instrumental in helping with land-use decisions.
Responses to the 2020 CT Trail Census Evaluation Survey show that over 75% of respondents indicate they have used or plan to use the CTTC program and associated data to communicate trail use data for decision makers or the public, reference trail use data to make trail decisions, use trail use data to leverage resources, integrate trail use data into long term planning efforts, or identify patterns of use or trends on their trails.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased trail use starting in March of 2020 as more people than ever are using trails due to decreased options. Several reports comparing monthly 2019 to 2020 use data were completed for March through June 2020. Preliminary data analysis completed for Laura Brown’s presentation as a component of the 2020 Northeast MultiModal Summit document increased use in our data counts across 16 automated counter locations on trails throughout Connecticut.
The comprehensive 2020 Trail Use Count Report, summarizing trail counter and survey data was released in March 2021. In response to the increase in new trail users, the CTTC, in partnership with the People Active on Trails for Health & Sustainability (PATHS) team, produced four trails 101 videos to help new and experienced trail users understand how to plan and prepare for a hike, read trail blazes, and review trail etiquette.
The On the Trail and Walk with Me Podcast Series, produced by UConn undergraduate student Neva Taylor raises up the voices of a wide range of people from many different outdoors disciplines. A UConn Today article compelled UConn President Thomas Katsouleous to write a personal letter in appreciation for this work. In the new year the Podcast continues to highlight voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and continues informational on the trail episodes. Laura Brown of UConn Extension and Don Rakow of Cornell compiled an extensive Anti-Racism in the Outdoors resource guide that includes readings, podcasts, and articles. The list is updated monthly with new information.
The new Connecticut Trail Finder website is under development as a partnership between UConn Extension, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation. Projected to be released in time for National Trails Day on June 5, 2021, the Trail Finder tool enables community members to view trails, get essential information like maps and parking information, and submit trip comments and photos. Users will be able to track trail experiences, noting trails that they have completed, their favorites, or ones they want to visit. This resource is meant to centrally locate everything that one would need to know in order to enjoy the trails.
We also wanted to acknowledge the changes in our staff over the past six months. Charles Tracy, our Trail Census Coordinator, transferred into full retirement in late August. Kimberly Bradley transferred into Charlie’s role in late September and has been gracefully catching up and moving forward ever since. Ryan Faulkner, our graduate student intern who helped with launching the online/QR Code survey, left us at the end of October to finish his graduate degree for a Masters in Geography in pursuit of a career as a Transportation Planner. Neva Taylor, our undergraduate student intern from the summer who launched our podcast series, stayed on with us through the fall to continue her podcasts and work as a communications and social media coordinator. We want to thank all our staff this year for helping us get through these crazy times.
Article by Kimberly Bradley and Neva Taylor