Report Released: Making Trails Count in Illinois

Posted 03/30/13 by Eric Oberg in Trail Use

Today, our friends at Trails for Illinois released the Making Trails Count in Illinois report. This 13-week study of trail use was done in partnership with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The study documented that some trails in Illinois are receiving as many as 100,000 visitors a year.

Between mid-July and mid-October 2012, the study counted and surveyed trail users on six trails statewide: 

  • Fox River Trail, west Chicago suburbs
  • MCT Goshen Trail, St. Louis metro area
  • Hennepin Canal State Trail, north central Illinois
  • Old Plank Road Trail, south Chicago suburbs
  • Rock Island State Trail, Peoria area
  • Tunnel Hill State Trail, southern Illinois

Some of the other key findings of the study:

  • 35% of trail users reported spending money at restaurants and bars during their visit to the trail, while 17% reported purchases at grocery stores.
  • Most trail users live locally, but 113 respondents were visiting from out of the area.
  • 32 trail visitors stayed in overnight lodging.
  • Nearly 40% of trail users reported household incomes above $100,000.
  • The average amount of all purchases was $30.40.

The data also suggests that these trails are playing a significant role in the healthy lifestyles of Illinoisans, including access to nature, particularly for middle-age adults and seniors:

  • 71% of all surveyed users were 46 and older.
  • 32% of trail users expected to spend more than 150 minutes on the trail that day cycling, running and walking. The Centers for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity for adults,
  • Trails are bringing Illinoisans in frequent contact with nature; more than 30% of trail users reported visiting the trail 21 or more times during spring, summer and fall over the past year.

The full report is available as a free download at

This coming summer Trails for Illinois will count and survey users on the historic Illinois Prairie Path. The nation's very first rail-to-trail is likely to have high usage and economic impact given its routing through several bustling western suburbs of Chicago. The more trails we count, the more trails will count in Illinois.

Find out more about these and other interesting trails at

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