It might not be a surprise to many, but trail usage more than doubled in Peoria during the pandemic, according to data received from the city.
The northern half of New River Trail and Sunrise Mountain Preserve are among the most popular trails in the city and this continued throughout the pandemic.
Brandon Putman, a member of the city’s trails management and development team, said fall and spring are obviously the busiest times with the nice weather, but usage was great last year and it hit a record in April 2020, when nearly 24,000 people took to the trails and walkways.
On the multi-use pathways, the average monthly traffic pre-Covid was 4,047, compared with 7,172 during the pandemic. On the mountain trails, the average monthly traffic pre-Covid was 4,736, compared with 5,295 during the pandemic.
There are trackers installed at several trail and walkway locations throughout the system. They are battery powered infrared scopes that track each time the beam is broken, recording the date and time of each person’s use.
Mr. Putnam said this frequency and timing data is used to make operational decisions.
“Thus far, each trail has at least one scope to give us a general idea of the use, but we can’t quite capture everyone on the trails,” he said. “The key for placement is to identify primary access points and bottlenecks that will ensure a trail user can’t pass by outside the range of the beam.”
With more hikers on the trails the city did have to keep up with more maintenance and repair over the last year. Mr. Putnam said keeping up with trash can emptying and sanitizing of trailhead surfaces was a challenge.
He stressed how important it is for trail users to abide by the Leave No Trace set of outdoor ethics that promote disposing of waste properly, leaving the trail as it was found, respecting wildlife, being considerate of other visitors and especially dog owners picking up their pet’s waste.
Trail etiquette remains a major concern with so many new users on the trails, he said.
“To keep users safe, our staff will always yield to anyone on the trail, but it became difficult to keep on the route schedule with what seemed like endless streams of users,” he said.
Philip Haldiman can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.