180,000+ visits/year in Villa Park, Wheaton, Maywood. Users are cyclists, runners, walkers, bird watchers, daycare kids. 60% of users are cycling. Users come from 100 zip codes and South Korea. A third of them buy food, beer, shoes, bikes. A few buy homes.
Wow, we’ve not posted nothin’ for weeks! The explanation: we’ve been turtled up to finish the Making Trails Count: Illinois Prairie Path project.
And we’re still not finished, but the data we’ve collected is kind of amazing, and I wanted to share a couple tid bits, just to show some life on this blog and, of course, to tease you.
Making Trails Count helps trail groups and agencies quantify the Triple Bottom Line benefits (economic impact, environmental stewardship, health) trails generate for users and the communities they connect. The data was collected by 28 volunteers, many of them members of the Illinois Prairie Path not-for-profit Corporation, who logged nearly 200 hours collecting almost 700 surveys the summer and fall of 2013. The University of Illinois Office of Recreation & Park Resources coded and analyzed the findings.
Environmental benefits—only 23% of trail users surveyed used a motor vehicle to get to the trail. For hundreds of thousands of people, the IPP turns their homes into trailheads.
Health benefits —Cycling, by far, was the most reported activity on the trail. Walking & running came in number two and three—depending on age group. And make your guess which age group was more likely to indicate “stress relief” as one of their reasons for trail use.
Economic benefits—You were pretty smart opening the bar, restaurant, or outdoor gear shop near the trail. Oh, that’s not you? Maybe it should be.
The IPP, it’s turning out, plays a huge role in the quality of life that western Cook and Dupage County offers. All who live there knew that, but soon they’ll know it in a way that can be leveraged to create more value from trail use, and to encourage more trail connections.
Parks & rec professionals will get a more detailed preview this Friday at the IPRA state conference in Chicago, 10am in the New Orleans room, and learn how Making Trails Count can work for them. Look for the full report in early February at http://trailsforillinois.org/maketrailscount.
(Photo by Diane Banta, National Park Service Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance)
The Chicago south suburbs will have, by 2015, a 100-mile loop of off-street multi-use trails. And no one knew it, until this morning.
We had the great pleasure of dramatically pulling the sheet off of a 100-mile trail system this morning that brings users back to where they started, entirely in Chicago’s south suburbs, that no one - including us until recently - saw coming. Disparate trail efforts, quite unintentionally, have connected to one another in a way no one foresaw.
Our audience was the Chicago Southland Economic Development Commission, a roomful of 250 business leaders and elected officials from across the Chicago South Suburbs. Our Making Trails Count in Illinois study allowed us to connect this group to the potential economic impact of the Chicago Southland Century network - a century-sized off-street loop that no other region in Illinois, and no state in the Midwest, can claim.
Those of you who supported Making Trails Count, we are so grateful for what you’ve enabled us to do. When you support Trails for Illinois, you are driving the transformation that we triggered this morning in the Chicago Southland, that we are ready to bring to the entire state. Please download the report at http://trailsforillinois.org/maketrailscount. And please donate to this tiny organization who is changing how communities across this state think about the value of trails.
Thanks to SEH’s Gregg Calpino for sending us the picture.
Two hundred thousand ice cream cones: Palos Heights, Illinois parks & recreation director Mike Leonard shares how Making Trails Count in Illinois will help him make the case for economic development along the Cal-Sag Trail.
Reviewing the printer’s proof for Making Trails Count in Illinois. Average spending $30+ per trail visit…. Did I just tumblr that out loud?
In the short term, it has been requested by some aldermen that our trail have some etiquette signage installed in a couple of places. While the designation of food, drink and restrooms is also being considered, they would like the trail courtesy and etiquette signs up for this spring. Our neighboring town said if we come up with something that looks good, perhaps they would incorporate into their section as well.Do you have any samples of trail usage signs that you like or have found to be effective? Looking for things like appropriate passing, respect for private property, using recycle cans, riding single file during congested times etc…..
Laura, they don’t work. People want signs so that they can point out what the rules are to people thought to be breaking them.
A lot of the problem is that ALL the rules get put on a sign. Traffic signs do not work this way. “SPEED LIMIT 50 MPH” - just one rule on one sign, not:
- Speed limit is 50 MPH. Faster drivers will be ticketed!
- Stay on the right of the road except when passing
- Use your headlights after sunset
- Please stop for pedestrians
- When waved at, wave back. All non-wavers will be ticketed
…and on and on, all in like 14 point type. But agencies install trail signs like this all the time, and no one reads them. You also of course can’t put all the rules that everyone wants each on their own sign - you’d have a trail experience that’s nothing but signs.
So rules & etiquette signs waste money, returning no value to the trail user experience, or to the towns that install them. Why do roads get away with not putting up a sign with ALL the rules? Because people are taught the rules and etiquette of driving. How to use and share trails isn’t taught.
Better use of money: Use the bike shops, running groups, park districts, community resources (newsletter, mailings, etc) to teach trail use. Incentivize taking a quiz—a free ice cream cone? Our survey work shows that many of the users on a trail are local residents. So an effort in your community to create better trail users would hit a lot of the trail users that others are grumbling about.
If a sign has to go up, pick one rule. Maybe a sign ONLY about passing/being passed:
Could be fun, like the “KEEP CALM/CARRY ON” posters. But wow, no more message than that. In fact, maybe that’s your campaign right there with bike shops, park districts, etc., just getting that one lesson taught.
Getting more consideration between fast & slow trail users would speak to most of the conflicts trails have.
As for issues like dog poop or recycling-only bins, only a sign next to recycling only bins, or next to a doggy bag dispenser would be worth putting up. One sign, one message, with desired action clearly in view.
And then a town can use all the money it saved to make signs helping people find the trail, and inviting trail users to come into town and stay a while! THOSE are signs that return value.
A great sign reference is “Signs, Trails & Wayside Exhibits” from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. I refer to it a lot, great guidance and many examples.
One more thing: lots of times, courtesy and rules come up as a response to rising traffic on a trail. When traffic becomes a headache on the road to the mall, we widen the road. Trails return enough value to communities that expanding trails—widening to 12’, building adjacent walking/running paths, building more trails nearby—is just as appropriate a response. In metro areas, trails should be at least 12’ wide (instead of common 8’-10’), and in some places have separate surfaces for biking and running/walking, when they’re first built. We build roads based on the traffic we need/want to accommodate. Trails should be designed and built the same way.
Thanks for the question, Laura. I’m going to post this to my blog. Let me know how else I can help.
Steve Buchtel, Executive Director
Trails for Illinois
1639 Burr Oak Rd.
Homewood, IL 60430
May your home be your trailhead.
That’s Jeremy Robinett in the picture above, doctoral candidate at University of Illinois and research assistant with the Office of Recreation and Park Resources (ORPR). Jeremy is the lead analyst for Making Trails Count, and has studied the data from nearly 800 surveys collected by our amazing survey collection teams and on-line. I tried to stage a photo that made him look busy analyzing data. Instead he looks to be having a pleasant conversation with Microsoft Windows. I will stay out of the stock photo business.
Jeremy and the ORPR have begun sharing some initial observations about our data collected from trail users that frankly is very difficult to sit on. The data describes relationships between trail use and benefits to Illinois’ economy, its natural environment, its people. In the context of the total number of trail users we counted—numbers that are likely to be eye opening for most—with help from Rails to Trails Conservancy, we are very likely to start a new conversation about trails’ role in Illinois quality of life.
So why sit on it? Because the findings are preliminary, mostly. Our target publishing date is February 2013. If you gave to Making Trails Count—like Mike Hanley, John Wilson, Eberhard Veit, Pat Weseloh, Michael Longo, Robin Hall all did, generously—you’ll be the first to receive a copy of the report. You can get on that list (and get one of our cool trailhead stickers) by making a year-end contribution to Trails for Illinois. Do this now.
Meanwhile, some of the data will be sneaking into my presentations for the rest of this year. I’m speaking at the Quad Cities Riverfront Council meeting tomorrow in Davenport at noon, Friends of the Hennepin Canal this Thursday at the Hennepin Canal Visitor Center in Sheffield, 6:30 PM, and at Friends of the Rock Island Trail meeting December 5 at Avanti’s in East Peoria, 6 PM. Come on out! If you want to ride with me (leaving from Chicago south suburbs), I’d enjoy the company.
What a lovely book to find in my library.
GITy Up!, our our overnight bike camping adventure, has infected me with the bug for bike camping. This despite that I was the planner/organizer/director/truck driver/clean up guy—I had the least fun of all!
But I am, I’m hooked. Last week, I scored a deal at GITy Up! partner REI's outlet store on a backpacking tent and sleeping bag. Yesterday, I ordered a tiny little Trangia stove. I have my sights set on Vienna, IL and camping along Tunnel Hill State Trail this October. You can’t read about or see the tunnel, the depot, the beautiful and rolling Southern Illinois landscape and not want to explore. And the canyon snakes!
GITy Up! proved to be a powerful vector for the bike camping contagion. Our GITy Up! rider survey reveals that 76% of survey respondents (31 of 57 responded) had never been bike camping before. Of these first timers, 60% are now preparing to go bike camping on their own.
Nearly ALL of them are purchasing new bike camping gear for their next trip—tents, sleeping bags, trailers, panniers, etc. On average, each of them estimates they’ll spend $177 on the new gear.
This is on top of the $1600 our 87 adult riders spent during GITy Up! at Batavia Fest, local restaurants and bars, liquor stores, bike shops, and the Batavia Quarry.
Trail-based tourism is a viable economic engine for Illinois communities and our state. We are so proud of GITy Up!’s ability to introduce bike camping to so many people, and to contribute to local economies.
And I can not wait to hit the trail.
One word: Trestle.
From our draft Illinois American Planning Association session description—
"The Triple Bottom Line of Trails: The Kickapoo Rail Trail’s impact on People, Planet & Profit
Trails return benefits to Illinois on a Triple Bottom Line – economic activity, environmental stewardship, and quality of life. Trails developed to maximize the Triple Bottom Line return the most on the public’s investment. Steve Buchtel, Trails for Illinois, and Tim Bartlett, Urbana Park District, lead participants on a tour of the anticipated Kickapoo Rail Trail connecting Urbana’s award-winning bicycle network to Kickapoo State and Danville. The tour follows the abandoned rail corridor through the agricultural landscape, with stops to explore the potential for tourism, economic development, conservation, and lifestyle changes. We will also do a 1.5 mile-hike through Kickapoo State Park (so wear good walking shoes) and end at the picturesque trestle bridge across the Vermillion River Valley.”