Ever wonder what happens to trail registers? A research project run by Abigail Larkin and Colin Beier at the SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb has been building a database using the 2012 trail register data. Abbie previewed her work at the Adk Research Consortium’s annual event in May and there are many interesting data points emerging already. Here are a few to peak your interest:
– There are 2,350 miles of DEC trails in the Park. The study found 210 usable register stations. There are an estimated 95 more than were not received or usable by the study. There are additional non-DEC trails – we have a lot of trails – but this is a good data set to work with.
– Usage totals 565,502 person-days, 21% hike alone, 66% hike in groups of 2-4, 13% in groups of 5 or more
– 88% are day trips, just 12% camp overnight
– Adk Loj is the most visited with 54,511 people. Second is Rondax / Bald Mtn with 30,388 people, near Old Forge, a one mile hike to a restored fire tower and great views.
– Generally, peak use is in July and August seeing 120,000 people each month. Variances show up in special use areas, for example a region with lots of hunters or ski trails.
– Because hikers register their destination, the data revels detailed trail segment use information. This can help maintenance planning.
– Hikers also write down what town they are from. Regional promotions by organizations like ROOST can be more effective by focusing on geographic areas where visitors commonly reside.
– A higher portion of Park residents are trail users than any other area of the State (except Rochester). NYC sends large absolute numbers, but <.1% of the population.
– Analytic work can model the road network used by visitors to any register, enabling one to see what services were available, or not, along these routes.
WOW, such data, about each trail! It can help marketing each area. It can also help with stewardship, maintenance plans, and suggest business opportunities related to the trail assets of an area. But this is only based on one year of data, 2012. It would be great if funding would appear to do this for a few years in a row.
Here is an idea: If there is cell phone coverage at a trail head, ask hikers to register using their cell phone and enter the same info. It would automatically be summarized each year. Imagine how much we would learn about the typical visitor to our trails. Of course, you would have to have paper registers too for people without phones. There would be plenty more surprises, I am sure.
Take some time and review Abbie’s presentation here.