FORT COLLINS, CO – Have you ever rode on a beautifully constructed mountain bike trail or ran through pristine landscapes and wondered how many of your fellow trail users enjoy it as much as you?
Then, in recent months due to COVID-19, you saw thousands of more people flocking to those trails and you experienced overcrowding, parking congestion, trashing, and increasing trail user conflict. And you wondered how many (more) trail users are there nowadays and how many of them really care about your favorite trails and are willing to contribute to its maintenance?
Trail use and growing public pressure to provide more trails is one of the questions land managers, park authorities, and volunteer trail groups increasingly wrestle with. How many users are there and how do they communicate with them, how do they plan for future trail expansion, and who will look after it as the traffic increases?
For many years lots of different trail counters, mechanical and human, have been used to count trail users with more or less useful results. It is one thing to count people on trails but another to know if they are repeat users, who they are and what motivates them. Mechanical counting is also extremely limited, or very costly if you really want to apply the process to all trails, especially when it comes to counting biking, hiking and running trail users on more than the main arterials.
Since we have launched LuvTrails a year ago and regularly spoke to volunteer trail organizations who build and maintain most soft-surface trails we have heard this question raised time and time again.
In response, our LuvTrails-Trailcare team designed a method to make it easy for trail users to donate to the local volunteer trail groups who look after the trails.
Firstly, we’ve launched the per-mile donation tool (Trailcare) that uses the data from the trail user’s GPS-enabled mobile device to determine how many miles they have ridden, ran or hiked on a specific trail and notifying the user how much they could donate to the trail group. The user’s GPS data channeled via Strava plays a pivotal role in the process. This was a first for public donations and is fast becoming the new way to get the public to contribute to the sustained maintenance of trails.
Secondly, we’ve built a “Segments” tool. Using the same GPS data we generate a dynamic, real-time list of Strava segments reflecting where Trailcare users ride/hike/run and match that with the amount they donate to those segments.
For the first time, trail organizations (and landowners and park managers) have real data on who, how, when, and for what purpose trail users are on their trails – all their trails, even the shortest, remotest, less-traveled ones. It is a live data feed 24/7/365. And because we know who the trail users are, groups have a way to communicate with them, if needed and users opt-in.
With “Segments” a table of Strava trail segments is displayed, with the ability for trail organizations to dig deeper into the trail data as needed. By clicking on the segment link trail group administrators can access the segment page on Strava where they can view more details even of non-Trailcare users.
The “Donations Generated” feature is a calculation of donations per segment by dividing each rider’s donation for an entire ride by the length of the segment, and then summing it by all riders. It is a measure of the most “revenue” generating trails via donations.
The “Times Ridden” feature is a calculation of the number of times riders/runners/hikers who are using Trailcare have been on a trail. It is a measure of the most popular trails in the organization’s geofenced boundaries.
“Segments” is in beta for the next few weeks, and could still change. But for now, we encourage trail users to sign up at www.trail.care and help their local trail organizations to start to get real data on trail use for maintenance and planning.