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Everyone’s Opting Outside: Local Trail Use Jumped 138% During Pandemic
Philly

Everyone’s Opting Outside: Local Trail Use Jumped 138% During Pandemic

Enjoying nature has made a comeback, as local and national use of trails have skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Trails have been one escape from the pandemic, and Philadelphians have taken advantage every month of quarantine.

The Circuit Trail use increased from 30% to 107% in March compared to the same time frame last year, pre-pandemic, according to Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Circuit Trail counters.

April stats spiked, including a 118% increase at the D&L at Washington Crossing in Bucks County and 138% at the US 202 Parkway in Montgomery and Bucks counties. The trends continued through May (including a high of 52% increase over 2019 combined from the Schuylkill Banks, Chester Valley Trail, Washington Crossing, Port Richmond and Wissahickon) and a 53% increase in Chester Valley Trails, from June last year.  

“Since March, we’ve seen usage numbers rising more than 100% on some trail segments as people get out and discover new places to stay active and find new or renewed interest in activities, they can enjoy by themselves or with family,” says Sarah Clark Stuart, chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition. 

As one of the country’s largest trail networks, the greater Philadelphia Circuit Trails includes over 330 miles of multi-use trails across nine PA counties with plans to expand, making it an attractive, accessible, and free option. Plans are to eventually connect more than 800 miles of multi-use trails. Over 60 organizations work together to maintain and advance the trails, so data about usage helps the coalition to make the most effective and beneficial decisions about it. Another perk of the circuit trails? It connects to many open parks and water so you don’t have to be restricted to just the trail.

Trail use nationwide has increased by 200% compared to the same levels this time last year, pre-pandemic. Recent data from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy shows trail use nationwide has increased more than 200%. Almost half of those surveyed (46%) agree that their stress was reduced by have access to outdoor spaces, and 52% say they are using trails and outdoor spaces nearby for exercise.

How to Use Trails Safely

As more people explore the Circuit Trails, the trail trend is expected to continue.

Stuart encourages people to enjoy the trails with safety in mind. Here are some tips for how to make your time there smooth and safe.

  • Stay 6 ft away! Make sure to maintain 6 feet distance from people not in your household. 
  • When walking, running, and biking, stay to the right, and pass on the left.
  • Don’t be stationary on the trail unless necessary, and make space for those passing
  • Keep your mask, hand sanitizer, and water on you
  • Last but certainly not least: Stay home if you’re feeling unwell!

Can’t make it out to the trails?

The Circuit Trails got you covered! Online events include virtual runs, virtual summer camps, Facebook Lives with trail naturalists, amongst other activities which can be found on the Circuit Trails event page.

Photo: Thom Caroll

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Jada Ackley
Jada is a senior Environmental Studies major at Temple University with a minor in City and Regional Planning. Currently Jada is an Editorial Intern at Green Philly. Her Interests includes enjoying nature and advocating for sustainability! View all posts by Jada Ackley

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