C-K trails see plenty of walkers

The T.R.E.E.S. Trail in Ridgetown is one of the many trails used by area residents for their exercise enjoyment. (Image courtesy Local Journalism Initiative/Ridgetown Independent)

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chatham-Kent’s trail system lends support to the adage, “If you build it, they will come.”

The network of more than 45 municipally owned pathways saw a large number of users in 2021, a rise officials say can be directly attributed to the pandemic.

Municipal staff were able to capture data from 22 of its trails, conducting five long-term studies and eight short-term studies from July to December.

According to Genevieve Champagne, Chatham-Kent’s co-ordinator of active transportation and special events, some 427,786 trail walks took place over the six-month time period.

The study said Oct. 1 was the number one day for trail walks (6,067) with the highest usage recorded in Chatham at 49 per cent, Erieau with 32 per cent and Mitchell’s Bay at seven per cent.

The remaining communities of Ridgetown, Thamesville, Dresden, Blenheim and Wallaceburg made up the other 12 per cent.

Cyclists were also heavy users of the trails, with 15,469 trips recorded.

Champagne said safety protocols ruled out most outdoor activities during the pandemic, but not walking, which in turn led to a boost in trail use.

And even though use levelled out somewhat after other activities opened up, Champagne said many residents have now adopted the habit of trail walking.

Getting out in the fresh air and sunlight benefits both physical and mental health, Champagne said.

Improvements are also on the horizon. Chatham-Kent has a Trails Master Plan, Champagne explained, adding new projects are constantly being reviewed and considered.

“We often hear from the trail users that if we build it, they will come,” she added. “They have shown us over the years that this is true.

“We often hear from trail users that they are happy with the trails in their community and if they are not,” Champagne noted, adding there’s a discussion about making it better, which could include connecting to other infrastructure.

Champagne said CK will continue to monitor trails using infrared counter technology – cameras aren’t used – hopefully monitoring trails that have yet to be studied.

There are plans to add to the trail system, Champagne said, with projects to be announced in the spring.








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