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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Data Reveals Banner Year for Trail Use

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), the nation’s largest trails advocacy organization, released an analysis of national trail count data for 2021, finding that trail use remained higher than 2019 levels.

Nationwide, RTC’s trail counters showed an average increase in trail use of 36 percent  compared with 2019, marking a second year of record-setting trail use across the country. In 2020, as pandemic-related lockdowns were commonplace, RTC’s trail counters showed an average nationwide increase in trail use of 51 percent compared to 2019.

“As we wrap up 2021, we continue to see evidence that access to nature and the outdoors is a critical component of our well-being — especially during times of heightened and chronic stress that we’ve all faced for nearly two years,” said Torsha Bhattacharya, Ph.D., research director at RTC. “While we’ve always celebrated trails as vital to healthy, thriving communities, consistently high levels of trail use show us how important trails are to our physical and mental health, and how critical trails are in encouraging even more people to get outside.”

As the nation continues to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, experts point to the outdoors as the safest space to gather and participate in activities. While trails provided essential access to the outdoors for millions of people in the United States., the pandemic brought sharp focus to the importance of these public spaces in our communities with more people seeking spaces to be active outside in their own neighborhoods.

In an ongoing RTC poll, which has been running since September 2020, nearly all respondents say they are getting outdoors the same or more than they did previously (95 percent), and the majority say that having access to outdoor spaces has reduced their stress (67 percent). Nearly half of people say since the pandemic they now consider trails and outdoor spaces to be very important (47 percent).

“It is inspiring that trail usage has remained high even as other places for social interaction and exercise, have opened back up to the public,” said Bhattacharya. “The sustained interest in trails, walking and biking, and finding opportunities to be active outside close to home speaks to the appreciation for trails we’re seeing across the country.”

RTC encourages those who visit the nation’s trails and outdoor spaces to share the trail and recreate responsibly, following guidelines to keep yourself and others safe while working to maintain access to the nation’s natural spaces. Learn more at railstotrails.org/sharethetrail.


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