More than 100,000 counted on trails
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.
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.