Follow The Republic:
Knowing how many people use Columbus’ People Trails will help the community raise money to expand the trail network.
An official count of trail users will begin soon, according to leaders of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. The investigation will include what residents use the trails for, what time of day they use them, where they enter and exit and even the impact of their trail-related exercise on their health.
Columbus fitness instructor Shayla Holtkamp is a believer in the People Trails. She either runs or bikes on the trails at least three days per week. Her students training for marathons hit the trails 60 to 70 at a time on weekend mornings.
“On bikes, especially, people use the trails to get away from traffic,” Holtkamp said.
She is so passionate about the People Trails that she is a part of the Columbus Park Foundation’s capital campaign, a yearlong fundraising campaign with a goal of $1 million. That effort and an additional $4 million will fund a 16-step improvement and expansion of the trails, including bike routes and sidewalks by 2017.
Holtkamp has encouraged friends to donate in memory of daughter Jolie Crider, a teen athlete who died in 1998. And they are responding, she said.
She said she believes the count will increase support for the trails.
“I think people will see they’ve had a huge impact on biking,” Holtkamp said.
Accurate numbers recorded over several months will better help the parks department garner support for the 21 miles of blacktopped trails for walkers, runners, cyclists and others, said April Williams, who serves as resource development/projects director for Columbus Parks and Recreation.
The parks department will work in conjunction with Indiana University faculty on the count and study that could stretch about a year, according to organizers. IU representatives say past studies they have completed have had a tremendous impact.
In fact, Stephen A. Wolter, executive director of IU’s Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands, said the Indiana Trails Study he helped coordinate grew to “national significance.” He said the 2000 report showing the positive impact of trails opened the state to more trails.
And now Indiana is among the nation’s leaders in percentage of trail growth since 2000, according to Wolter.
Both he and Steve Morris of the state Division of Outdoor Recreation credit Gov. Mitch Daniels for the trail growth. Daniels doubled annual spending on trails, according to state Department of Natural Resources figures. The state’s 3,000 miles of trails put every Hoosier within 7.5 miles or 15 minutes drive time of a trail.
“One of the reasons to do that was to take away people’s excuses for (not) exercising,” Morris said.
Locally, the planned expansion will bring 90 percent of city residents within three blocks of a trail, Williams said.
She said eight infrared trail counters, paid for by IU and Healthy Communities, were installed on trees recently to do one part of the count. Later, IU staffers will verify much of those figures in person and also interview trail users one-on-one and online.
IU will secure grants to pay for its portion of the study work.
Previous studies have shown how trails increase nearby property values, said Charles Chancellor, an assistant professor in IU’s recreation, park, and tourism studies department.
Plus, he said trails even in extremely rural areas such as Damascus, Va., which he has visited, have substantially boosted tourism.
“We believe that our work will show people (in Columbus) how important the trails are,” Chancellor said.
The count of the People Trails
The Columbus Parks and Recreation’s upcoming study with Indiana University on the use of the People Trails will show such details as:
How often residents use them.
Where they normally enter and exit.
Whether they run, walk, bike, skate or pursue some other activity.
Whether their trail activity has influenced the purchase of athletic or exercise gear.
Impact on people’s overall health.
— IU’s Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.