Kamloops residents have been busy exploring their own backyard, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
City statistics show that trail usage is up significantly in the first six months of 2020, compared to last year.
“People were just wanting to get out and get some fresh air while they were quarantined,” City of Kamloops parks manager Jeff Putnam told KTW.
Unbeknownst to the average hiker, laser trail counters are hidden amongst trailheads around the city. The stats help parks staff gauge trends, distribute resources and apply for grant funding.
Putnam said the most significant increase in city trail usage was seen at West Highland’s Park in Aberdeen, a multi-use paved pathway through the old golf course. Usage in the first six months of 2020 nearly tripled, at 60,000 users, compared to 23,300 in 2019.
“That’s by far the biggest increase,” Putnam said.
Meanwhile, the city park with the most visits so far this year is Kenna Cartwright Nature Park, smack dab in the middle of the city.
In 2019, the hilltop with panoramic views of Kamloops, saw 123,000 users in the first six months and the number jumped to 176,000, in 2020.
A city record was also broken in that time for the most usage counted at one trail head in one month.
Kenna Cartwright’s main trailhead saw 31,000 visitors in April.
“That’s a monthly record that I’ve seen, since I’ve been tracking for a trailhead, the number of visitors for any of our nature parks,” Putnam said.
“Normally, last year, it was 9,800. It’s like triple for the month of April.”
Peterson Creek also saw a spike. Putnam said through the first six months of last year, 83,400 people utilized the trails, compared to 138,400 in 2020.
The ring road around McArthur Island is not tracked.
However, Putnam said if it was, numbers would also surely show increased usage, after the city closed the area to vehicular traffic to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.
“Anecdotally, I can tell you, it’s [McArthur Island ring road] the busiest I’ve ever seen it,” he said.
Putnam said weather did not play a factor in the increased usage of city trails, as the first six months of the year in Kamloops were not seasonably warm, compared to last year.
One factor may have been the temporary closure of provincial parks, due to the pandemic, including popular area hikes like the Battle Bluffs in the Lac du Bois grasslands.
As for the impact on city trails, Putnam said increased usage can lead to wear and tear and city staff have been busier lately doing repairs and maintenance.
Putnam expects the trails to remain busy in the coming months and asks users to pick up after their dogs and respect naturally sensitive areas, especially when it’s wet outside.
“Considering the amount of usage they’ve had, they’re in very good condition,” he said.