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25 November 2020
Counting the impact of the pandemic on parks and trails
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Note: This short blog post is an article that appeared in the November 2020 edition of Parks & Recreation Business Magazine. We hope you enjoy.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, park and trail managers have seen visitation like never before. Parks have become ‘essential spaces’ for people to safely recreate and have fun during this difficult time.

The importance of collecting count data

Never has it been more important to collect count data to understand how and when parks and trails are being used. Automated people counters, which can be installed temporarily or permanently, collect anonymous data 24/7, providing hourly, daily, and seasonal trends. Count data provide an objective basis for decision-making and are used to justify investments, inform funding applications and much more. This year, many park managers have seen extraordinary trends in their data…

Eco-Counter’s PYRO-Box is a discreet, durable and versatile people counter.
The PYRO-Box can be easily moved, allowing for temporary and permanent counting.

From coast to coast, park and trail use is booming

In Suffolk, Virginia, attendance at the Lone Star Lakes Park was up 43% in March and April 2020 compared to the same period last year. A bit further north in Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna County, 13,000 people were counted on the Scranton Riverwalk Trail during the month of March 2020, up from 8,600 in March last year. The same story played out in Northwest Arkansas, where counts increased as soon as COVID-19 restrictions went into place. In April, trail use in Bentonville was up by 35%, and in nearby Fayetteville counts were up 55%.

Inform maintenance and communicate with visitors

Park managers across the country are using count data to plan park operations during this unprecedented time. In Suffolk, the data inform maintenance routines, such as doubling trash pickup efforts and grass cutting. In Pennsylvania and Arkansas, there have been concerns of overcrowding on the trails. In response, park planners created signs, banners and other public health communications to encourage visitors to wear a facemask, respect social distancing and leave no trace.

The Eco-DISPLAY Classic is a highly-visible tool to communicate bike and pedestrian counts in real-time.
From the frame color to the front panel, the Eco-DISPLAY Classic is fully customizable.

While the pandemic has brought terrible hardship, it has reconnected people with parks and trails in ways we have not seen in recent memory. Count data are a key tool to manage, develop and adapt these ‘essential spaces’ during this difficult time and into the future.

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