Trail User Research

A Green Circle Trail intern stands next to an infrared trail counter.
A Green Circle Trail intern stands next to an infrared trail counter.

On average, about 200,000 people use the Green Circle Trail annually.

The Green Circle board partners with Schmeeckle Reserve at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) to research the number of users who walk, jog, or bike the trail. Infrared devices are installed at various locations along the trail, which trigger counts when a warm, moving object crosses their field of view. A UWSP student intern collects the data from each counter once a month and analyzes the results to determine the number of users annually, monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly.

Since 2013, data has been collected and analyzed from different sections of the trail, which has provided valuable information about use and management. Observations and in-person surveys have also enriched our understanding of trail users. 

Average annual trail counts

Based on data collected from several infrared counters, a minimum and maximum user count is determined each year for the entire trail. The minimum count is the highest number found on a single counter (which would mean that every person on that counter was also counted on all of the others). The maximum count is all of the counters added together (which would mean that no single person was counted on more than one counter). These two numbers are averaged together for the total annual count.

  • 2020: 318,512 users (64% increase in number of users due to COVID-19 pandemic)
  • 2019: 194,545 users
  • 2018: 199,624 users

Number of trail users on different sections

Infrared counters are moved to different trail sections about every 2-3 years to compare and contrast the amount of use. As of July 2020, here are the average annual counts on each trail section:

  • Riverfront Trail: 92,850
  • Iverson Park Trail: 61,045
  • University Trail: 54,492
  • McDill Trail: 42,409
  • River Pines Trail: 32,912
  • Whiting Crossing Trail: 26,717
  • Brickyard Trail: 26,660
  • Plover River Trail: 21,275
  • Paper Mill Trail: 13,675
  • Moses Creek Trail: 10,653
  • Westside Loop: Not measured
  • Stagecoach Trail: Not measured (all roads/sidewalks)

Observational and interview data

A Green Circle user takes a survey along the trail.
A Green Circle user takes a survey along the trail.

Green Circle interns also use observational and survey methods to collect data about trail users, which provides more context for management activities and enhancement projects. Some of the results from 2013-2015 include:

Recreation activity (2013-2015 average)
  • 73% of trail users are bicyclists
  • 17% are walkers or hikers
  • 9% are joggers or runners
  • 2% are pet walkers
Amount of time spent on trail (2013-2015 average)
  • 2.7 visits per week
  • 1.8 hours per visit
Where trail users come from (2015)
  • 70% from local area (within 15 minutes driving time)
  • 22% from elsewhere in the state (over 15 minutes driving time)
  • 7% from out-of-state (primarily Illinois)

More information

The latest Green Circle Trail Visitor Use Report can be downloaded here.

Contact us for more information about this unique research project.