More than 100,000 counted on trails

The Weekly Vista - - News - KEITH BRYANT

Count­ing de­vices have been in place along Bella Vista’s trails for a year now and are in­di­cat­ing in­creased traf­fic.

Ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided by the city, the trails saw 133,853 counts from Au­gust 1, 2017, to July 31, 2018, with 55,833 of them in 2017 and 78,020 in 2018.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Cassi Lapp ex­plained

that the count­ing de­vices are mounted 3 feet off the ground and use an in­frared beam and take a count each time that beam is bro­ken, mean­ing there’s

no good way to de­ter­mine how many of these counts are unique hu­man trail users com­pared to how many are the same per­son counted twice or even deer run­ning by.

But the data does sug­gest a sub­stan­tial in­crease in trail use over the past year, which Lapp said could be

at­trib­uted largely to an in­creased aware­ness — the Back 40 is no longer a new sys­tem and more peo­ple are hear­ing about it and com­ing to check it out. Ad­di­tion­ally, she said, there have been sev­eral events, in­clud­ing races and group hikes, that have brought large groups into the trail sys­tem.

“That tells you there are more peo­ple on the trails,” she said.

This data is im­por­tant, she said, be­cause it can be nar­rowed down to show when peo­ple are com­ing in — in­clud­ing time of day — and other trends, like which sec­tions are more pop­u­lar. That in­for­ma­tion can in­form fu­ture trail build­ing and show traf­fic to de­vel­op­ers.

Trail coun­ters are cur­rently placed at the Blow­ing Springs trail­head, the Bear Hol­low trail­head and the Lake Ann Trail­head, as well as the Southen por­tion of Blow­ing Springs, the Flo Ride trail, the South

por­tion of The Ledges trail, the Met­field skills park and the Back 40 trail along­side Trafal­gar and U.S. High­way 71 and Dork­ing Lane.

This cov­ers some key sec­tions as well as most places trail users will ac­cess the trails. The Dork­ing Lane counter, which saw 8,393 counts in 2017 and 15,152 counts in 2018, is a good in­di­ca­tor of how much use the Back 40 is see­ing, Lapp said, be­cause it’s the first street one crosses when en­ter­ing the Back 40 loop from Blow­ing Springs.

“Tourism is now an in­dus­try in Bella Vista,” Lapp said.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Cheri Wright walks Cali and Milo down a sec­tion of the Back 40 trails near the Lake Ann trail­head off Castle­ford Drive. A count­ing de­vice, the grey plas­tic box on the right, records any­one walk­ing by who in­ter­rupts its in­frared beam.

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