Trail use in Chatham-Kent on the rise

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Trails in Chatham-Kent are seeing a record number of visitors, as people try to find ways to get out of the house during the pandemic.

Municipal staff have been able to capture usage data on 22 trails and pathways from five long-term studies and eight short-term studies dating back to July 2021.

In 2021, a total of 427,786 trail walks took place at the 22 sites throughout Chatham-Kent. More than 6,000 walks took place on October 1, 2021, which marked it as the most walked day of the year.

Officials said in previous years, there was no concise way of monitoring the use of trails aside from volunteer data and residents. However, at the beginning of the pandemic, residents noted trails in their areas had seen a drastic increase in people using them.

“This lined up with the pandemics closure of other recreational spaces leaving trails as the main source of available socially distanced recreation,” said Chatham-Kent Active Transportation and Special Events Coordinator Genevieve Champagne. “Some trail users noted that a trail they normally walked increased by at least 50%, if not more.”

There are 55 trails in Chatham-Kent, plus more in local conservation areas and provincial parks.

With the recent data, Champagne said the municipality can see that trail users are not slowing down and seem to have created a daily habit.

Trails with the highest usage included Chatham with a 49 per cent usage rate, Erieau with 32 per cent usage rate, followed by Mitchells Bay with seven per cent usage rate.

Ridgetown, Thamesville, Dresden, Blenheim, and Wallaceburg made up for the remaining 12 per cent.

The recent data also shows that 15,469 cycling trips crossed paths with a cycling count site.

Champagne said this data can be used when applying for grants or trying to obtain resources to help support the trails in each community.

“I would like to personally thank everyone that got involved this year with our three trail initiatives,” said Champagne. “I would also like to thank those who walk these trails, whether it is daily, weekly, or even monthly.”