Anyone who spent time outdoors in the Mad River Valley last summer probably noticed more cars parked at trailheads, an increase in hikers or bikers on the trails or bigger crowds at the swim holes. Now, thanks to the Mad River Valley Planning District, there is new data to validate these experiences. Eight automated trail counters were deployed at Mad River Valley trails and sidewalks for two-week periods between August and October, 2020, to assess the volume of trail traffic and provide a comparison to previous counting efforts. Counting was done during similar periods in 2016 and 2018. All counts were collected by the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC) and all but two locations, Kingsbury Greenway and Mill Brook Trail, offer updates from previous years.
The results showed increased usage from previous years at seven of the eight locations. “This data shows that people are valuing trails and open space more than ever,” said Joshua Schwartz, executive director of the Mad River Valley Planning District. “The Mad River Valley has a tremendous network of public and private trails that have been stitched together over decades. We are fortunate to have so many generous landowners and dedicated trail organizations ensuring that these resources are open to the public and well-maintained, especially during times of increased use,” said Schwartz.
"The Mad River Valley's extensive, multi-use trail network is a huge reason why visitors want to come here,” said Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce “These quality recreational opportunities are also key to the Mad River Valley's highly regarded ‘quality of life’ energizing our community and local businesses. Anecdotally, trail inquiries about trails represent more than half the questions we get at the visitors’ center, whether they be for hiking, biking, snowshoeing or just walking. It is heartening to have key partners like the Mad River Valley Recreation District and the planning district championing the cause of maintaining our outdoor recreational access points,” said Friedman.
“As a community, we are a mix of full-time residents, part-time residents and visitors. We have amazing recreational resources and want everyone to be good stewards of them. It’s the right thing to do and honors the hard work of so many dedicated volunteers,” said Laura Arnesen, Mad River Valley Recreation District coordinator. The rec district and the planning district will convene the Mad River Valley Trails Collaborative via Zoom in December to start discussing the impacts of increased usage of trails and recreational sites. "Our goal as a community is to develop proactive strategies to address trash, parking pressures and other outcomes from the growing use and popularity of recreational opportunities in The Valley,” continued Arnesen. The date and time of the Zoom meeting will be announced and posted on www.mrvrd.org.