Did you know that Saanich Parks and CRD Parks both use infrared counters on trails? You may have seen little bollards along a trail with a sign saying 'Trail Study In Progress' or small boxes hanging from tree branches. We use these to assess trail use trends on designated trails and makeshift trails.
Below, you'll find some Q&A's to help you better understand how the data collected by these infrared counters is used in assessing trail use levels.
Understanding Trail Usage Data from Infrared Counters
Infrared counters are devices placed on our trails to estimate the level of trail usage. They work by detecting heat and movement to provide an approximation of the number of individuals (including animals) passing by. This data is primarily used as a general guide to understand trail usage trends. Saanich has used these counters since 2011.
The accuracy of the counts from infrared counters can vary based on several factors. It's important to note that on wider trails with people walking side-by-side or closely grouped, the counters may provide lower accuracy, while on narrower trails with individuals spaced apart, the counters tend to be more accurate.
Despite their limitations, the infrared counters provide valuable insights into how our trails are used. They help us identify trends, such as peak usage times and popular routes, which can inform our management decisions and resource allocation.
To ensure the most accurate data from these counters, on occasion, we would employ comparing visual counts observed over several hours with those recorded by the counter over the same period to improve accuracy. The level of accuracy needed for management decisions depends on the specific decision-making requirements. In most cases, a reasonable estimate of trail usage is sufficient, but if highly accurate data is required, visual calibration can be used to enhance accuracy.
We could use other methods like surveys, direct observations, and manual counts to gather more precise data, however these methods can be costly and the data from the infrared counters is generally sufficient for understanding trail usage trends. At times we also collaborate with Engineering to collect data on transportation in parks (cars and bikes).