Getting Started: Deciding on Counting Program Outcomes

Many park and recreation professionals face the challenge of selecting between a large number of data sources. A 2016 NRPA research survey found that 27 percent of parks and recreation professionals find the amount of data available overwhelming.

When it comes to adding a counting program to the many sources of data available to understand visitors and trail users, focusing on the main desired outcomes is a good place to start. A study on monitoring trail use identified deciding on both who will be using the data and for what purpose as the first step for beginning to collect count data.

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Case Study: Optimizing Trail Widths in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sizing trail widths to maximize safety and minimize conflicts is a process that benefits from accurate data. The number of trail users and the mix of transportation modes is important information when it comes to determining trail widths.

City of Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation uses six automatic counters to record the number of cyclists and pedestrians on local trails. “In Sioux Falls we have over 30 miles of shared use trails, including a 20-mile continuous loop that circles the city,” explains Mike Patten, Park Development Specialist. This past year, one million trail users were counted.

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