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The City Journals

Electronic counters show use of Corner Canyon trails rivals that of top state parks

May 18, 2020 11:37AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Electronic counters placed on four popular trailheads in Corner Canyon showed nearly 357,000 individual users enjoyed Draper’s trails in 2019. Photo of Canyon Hollow Trail. (Photo courtesy Draper City)

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Electronic counters placed at four of Draper’s 15 trailheads counted nearly 357,000 individual users for the year 2019. “Looking at this number, I pulled up state park data. Out of 42 state parks in Utah, only nine have higher use than we do,” said Greg Hilbig, Draper’s Trails and Open Space manager. “What’s significant is that only counts four trailheads. We have 15, plus small access points, so 357,000 is just a part,” he said. 

In 13 years with Draper City, Hilbig has seen an increase from 50 to 117 miles of trails on city-owned property. “Once our trails started to get more popular, we didn’t have an idea or accurate count. After doing some research I found some really good trail counters. Two (of the four) counters can differentiate between a hiker and a mountain biker,” he said. 

Counters were placed at these trailheads with the following statistics revealed:

  1. Andy Ballard Equestrian Center — 160,000 users, 25% pedestrian, 75% mountain bikers
  2. Orson Smith — 91,000 users (didn’t differentiate between hikers and mountain bikers)
  3. Coyote Hollow — 30,000 users from January to June and October to December (counter was removed during summer construction).
  4. Brookside — 74,000 mountain bikers (this counter is at the bottom of three downhill-only mountain bike trails, so it counted as they funneled into one point. It also counted each lap made by the same mountain biker). 

Hilbig said the data the counters provide is invaluable. “I can find out how many people went by on a particular day to the hour,” he said. 

Those in Hilbig’s line of work look at stats to determine “carrying capacity” (how many users a trail can accommodate before there is significant impact) and “limits of acceptable change” (how many can use a trail before it starts to see an impact, not only physical but societal). “You need to do your research before you go and plan accordingly,” Hilbig said. 

Social distancing makes that research and planning more important. “We have seen a large increase in usage on our Corner Canyon trails in the past month. On average, we had more than 15,000 weekly users in March and April. This is a huge increase compared to 2019.  To avoid the crowds and peak times, we recommend trail users go during the weekdays in the morning before noon. Park in designated spaces only and pay attention to no parking signage. Draper City Police will enforce violations,” said Britnee Johnston, Draper’s communications director. 

Trail users can visit the trails open space page on Draper City website or the Draper City Trails Facebook page to plan their Corner Canyon outings. 

Johnston reminds trail users to follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to visiting a park or trail, to maintain 6 feet or more of distance from others, and not to use the parks or trails if you are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus. 

The city partnered with the nonprofit Corner Canyon Trails Foundation to purchase the counters, each of which cost $3,000-$5,000. “I will continue to use this product. I just ordered five more counters. The trails foundation has paid for half of them,” Hilbig said in early March. 

He reminds trails users to keep dogs on a leash, not to use muddy trails, and that the Corner Canyon Trails Foundation always accepts donations (www.cornercanyontrails.com).

“There’s a reason outdoor recreation is so huge in Utah. I’m glad other cities are getting on board and building trail systems. Herriman has started building…we’re hoping to connect our system into Lehi’s this year. We already connected into Alpine and Sandy,” Hilbig said.