The Walton Family Foundation has supported the development of an expansive trail network in the foundation’s home region of Northwest Arkansas. This is a key focus in the Home Region Program’s 2020 Strategic Plan and resulted in the addition of 181 miles of natural-surface trails and 35 miles of multi-use paths since 2015, bringing the total miles of trails in the region to 484 by the end of 2019. To understand how many people are using the trails and assess the impact of these investments, the foundation has periodically monitored the levels of cycling and pedestrian activity on the region’s trail network. A team of researchers at San Diego State University’s Active Transportation Research Center conducted trail use monitoring studies in 2015 and 2017, and this 2019 study is the third in the series.
In 2019, the trail network saw an average annual volume of 92,167 cyclists and 66,329 pedestrians per site. That equates to an average of 203 cyclists and 175 pedestrians per day on weekdays and 376 cyclists and 203 pedestrians per day on weekends. The average annual volume per site has grown considerably since the 2015 baseline study, with cycling activity up 36% and pedestrian activity up 13%. The majority of these gains, however, occurred between 2015 and 2017, when cycling increased 24% and pedestrian use increased 10%, with smaller increases occurring between 2017 and 2019, when cycling increased 10% and pedestrian use was up just 2%.