Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Report: Trail users outnumber skiers

Sustain Blaine study touts value of trails system

Express Staff Writer

Summer trail use in 2012 eclipsed winter ski days in the 2011-12 season, a local economic development group announced this month.

Sustain Blaine economic development group joined with the Blaine County Recreation District over the summer to place counters—small boxes roughly the size and shape of a cigarette pack—on area trails.

Those users included bikers, hikers, equestrians, roller skiers and trail runners throughout the Wood River Trails System from Ketchum to Bellevue, in Adams Gulch and at trailheads in the Croy Canyon, Galena Lodge and Greenhorn Gulch systems.

The survey also included volunteer observers who interviewed some users to determine age, residence and other demographic information. The survey covered 70 trails.

Joy Kasputys, outreach and development coordinator for Sustain Blaine, said in a press release that the entire trail system saw 725,000 user days between April and November. That far surpasses the estimated 460,000 snow-sport user days, which includes both alpine and Nordic skiing, compiled by Sustain Blaine in the 2011-12 season.

Recreation District Executive Director Jim Keating said the numbers proved the important role of recreation in the Wood River Valley.

“The high usage among locals and visitors alike clearly illustrates how vital the trail system is to our identity and to our economy,” he said.

Kasputys said Sustain Blaine has not yet released all the data, but will roll out final results in presentations to various marketing and government groups throughout the valley.

The study shows that 28 percent of trail users are visitors; 46 percent of users are locals. The remainder, Kasputys said, are second-home owners.

More than 43 percent of trail use was on multi-use trails such as the Wood River Trail system, while the remainder was on backcountry trails. The study shows that use of the Wood River Trails path is 79 percent biking and 13 percent hiking or running, while backcountry trails see 58 percent hiking and 30 percent biking with other uses such as horseback riding counted as well.

Of the visitors using the trails, 52 percent are between 40 and 60 years old. Seventy-six percent of them are from the Intermountain West. 

Kate Wutz:

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