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RECREATION

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R E C R E A T I O N

R E C R E A T I O N

The role of recreational activities

within greenways corridors is significant. Indeed, planning for the enjoyment of our natural areas is a major component at nearly every governmental level,

as well as at private land-trusts. Either through parks, conservation areas, or linear trail facilities, outlets for recreation represent the foundation of a region’s quality of life.


As a disclaimer, the matter of recreational access is vast, and this plan will not attempt to cover all aspects.

Thus there will be no focus herein on active recreation (soccer, baseball, etc.) or park programs. Of prime focus are those recreation activities that contribute to and benefit from the expansion of

our greenways network: land and water

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trails.


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RAIL-TRAILS ARE A PERFECT MEANS OF TELLING COMMUNITY STORIES....THEIR LONG AND COLORFUL HISTORY MAKE PERFECT GREENWAYS. THEY COMBINE THAT HISTORY WITH A RESPECT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, AND RECREATION, AND ALLOW US TO LIVE LIFE ON A HUMAN SCALE MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER AND WITH NATURE.

–DAVID BURWELL, PRESIDENT, RAILS-TO- TRAILS CONSERVANCY, 1998


LAND TRAILS

A source of immense regional pride remains our ever-expanding off-road trail network. From meager beginnings in the early 1990’s with only 13 miles of known trail, the Northwest Indiana region has exploded with nearly 160 miles of interregional trails connecting many communities. This truly is a planning success story on a significant scale.


A number of factors have contributed to the success of trail-building in NW Indiana, but the seeds were laid many years ago. Due to the proximity of both Chicago and Lake Michigan, railroads literally crisscrossed Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties in the late 1800s. By the turn of the 20th Century, roughly 1000 miles of track were in operation – a staggering amount relative to the size of the region.


However, the number of railroad miles in active use decreased with our declining manufacturing base. By the early 1990s, about 700 miles of active line were left.

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This left about 300 miles for potential trail conversion. Thanks to new federal financing tools created at that time, a

golden age of trail development began,

and has yet to slow down.


Other factors contributed as well, including utility companies allowing trails within their corridors for no fee, and simply a general appreciation of their quality of life benefits. This latter factor has led many communities to invest in even more new miles of trail without federal assistance.


BENEFITS

Trails offer a tremendous number of benefits – both individually and collectively. These include:



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R E C R E A T I O N

DATA ANALYSIS

NIRPC staff has undertaken the most significant collection of trail data to date for the Greenways+Blueways 2020 Plan. These findings represent a critical data set which in turn can be used by local officials and advocates alike to help maintain and plan trail routes.


This section details the major findings from these undertakings which occurred through surveys and trail counts. The

first part offers a general overview of the data collected, with findings of how the data fits with national trends to follow.


OVERVIEW

Public Surveys

Throughout 2015, NIRPC conducted two types of surveys gauging public interest on land and water trails. These were conducted online and in the field through intercepts (direct contact with trail users). The online survey included a number of questions regarding

conservation interest and park use, which

is detailed in the Conservation chapter.

Both NIRPC staff and members of South Shore Trails conducted the intercept surveys, and did so on a majority of existing routes. Obviously the more populated trails yielded results biased towards that route over lower-volume facilities. Even so there are number of consistent factors which emerged from the answers.


In all, approximately 730 individuals responded to the surveys, with 190 of these as intercepts. The online surveys were available to the public from February to October of 2015, and the intercepts were

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conducted from June to September of 2015. This section will break down key findings from both land and water trail questions.


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For both surveys, Figures II-4 through II-8 represent the basic demographics of those who responded.


Figure II-4 Gender of Survey Respondents


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Figure II-5 Age of Survey Repondents


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Figure II-6 Ethnicity of Survey Reponsdents

Figure II-7 Education Level of Survey Respondents


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Figure II-8 Household Income of Survey Respondents



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R E C R E A T I O N

From these charts, the majority of respondents were middle aged (35-64), educated, white, and with a household income of $75,000 or more.


Land Trails

Land trails in the NW Indiana region enjoy a wide variety of uses which include either running, walking, biking or rollerblading as shown in Table II-9. When on a trail, a majority of users prefer trips of over five miles in distance as shown in Figure II-11.


Trails also serve as social gathering locations, and are often enjoyed with friends, family or other groups. Figure II-12 details this dynamic where a majority of trail users prefer to use the facility with other people, with a smaller number walking their dogs.


The following three charts relate to trails being economic generators. Figure II-13 points to those who make purchases while on the trail. Figure R-14 details what these purchases are, with a vast


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Figure II-9 Favorite Mode of Travel on Trail


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majority constituting beverages, with some opting to visit a nearby fast food or sit-down restaurant. Figure II-15 further breaks down how many have actually

made significant trail- related purchases during 2015.


Figure II-10 Primary Reason for Trail Use



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Figure II-11 Average Distance for Trail Use Figure II-13 Purchases While Using Trail


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Figure II-12 Trail Partners Figure II-14 Types of Purchases on Trail



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R E C R E A T I O N

Figure II-15 Various Items Purchased for Trail Use


Figure II-16 Use of Trail Over Seven Day Period

Figure II-16 profiles an individual’s trail usage the week prior to their survey response. Of those who responded, a vast majority – 546 out of 640 – have used a trail in the NIRPC region at least once.

Figure II-17 focuses on the popularity of each regional trail network in NW Indiana. From this graph, the Erie-

Lackawanna Trail (EL) from Hammond to Crown Point is the clear favorite, which is not a surprise since it is the longest facility in the three-county NIRPC region (17 miles), and traverses through the largest population base. Beyond the EL Trail, the balance of the other systems remains relatively equal, save for the C&O Greenway in Merrillville due to its isolated nature and length (1.3 miles).


Of note is the usage on the Calumet Trail along the National Lakeshore. This facility has been substandard for years and nearly impassible in parts. Even so,

and most likely due to its proximity to the park, the route remains a popular destination.

Another predictor of popularity is the distance of the facility to one’s place of residence. Figure II-18 shows a majority of respondents live within walking distance of a trail, and even more if biking is considered.



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to land trails. The following charts outline several data sets.


In Figure II-19, a basic question

was posed regarding what boat is preferred when using a water trail. An overwhelming number responded with kayaks, followed by canoes. This makes sense since kayaks can be used by

one person far easier than a canoe. A smaller number identified using stand-up paddle boards.



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Figure II-17 NW Indiana Trail Visitation


Figure II-18 Proximity of Trail to Home


Water Trails

Data collected on water trail use was obtained through the online survey. A smaller number of respondents from the overall sample filled out the questions relating to water trails, signaling their reduced usage numbers compared

Since the release of the 2007 Greenways & Blueways Plan, there has been a growing interest in paddling throughout NW Indiana. This is shown in Figure II-20 where a majority of uses have only been paddling regularly for the last five years. The success of NWIPA and the opening of additional routes have likely led to this new interest in water trail enjoyment.


The reason to paddle in general remains recreational in nature as shown in Figure II-21. There are some who paddle for exercise and fishing as well.



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R E C R E A T I O N

Figure II-19 Use on Water Trails Figure II-21 Primary Reason for Paddling


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Figure II-20 Length of Paddling


Like land trails, those who use water trails also tend to participate in groups rather than individually. Since a majority of those who paddle do so for recreation, it stands to reason that they also enjoy the activity with others as well, as shown in Figure II-22.


A number of prime locations exist in NW Indiana to paddle today, and as indicated by survey respondents, many have been taken advantage of. In Figure R-23, the most popular



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The results are minimal, with the vast majority mowing their trails on a weekly basis. Just over half of those who mow also take the time to plow in the winter. More municipalities should take the time to schedule regular plowing of their trails since walking and bicycling can take place in winter, and routes should be ice and snow free for access and safety.



Figure II-22 Paddling Destination in NW Indiana


route is Lake Michigan, followed by the Kankakee River – the two main water bodies in the NIRPC region, and most developed for access. Following these are a number of other routes, which are close to popularity with the top two destinations.


Municpal Surveys

In 2015, NIRPC released a specific survey to all local and county municipalities.

One of the questions dealt with their


maintenance strategy for trails. The results in Table II-4 summarize their responses.


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Table II-4 Municipal Trail Survey Results

TRAIL COUNTS

In NW Indiana, our trails are growing

in mileage and popularity. Just how popular has remained an unknown until earlier this year when NIRPC purchased 12 electronic counters with the help of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority and Indiana Dunes Tourism.



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R E C R E A T I O N

R E C R E A T I O N

These 12 counters were installed at discrete locations on six major trail facilities: six on the Erie-Lackawanna Trail from Hammond to Crown Point; two on the Oak-Savannah Trail (Griffith and Hobart); two on the Prairie-Duneland Trail (Portage and Chesterton); one on the Monon Trail in Munster; and one

on the Pennsy Greenway segment in

Schererville.


Each counter has an infra-red beam that counts any movement in front of the box, with a two-second delay between (this prevents overcounting). Although some groups will be counted once if lined up

in a row, several will be counted twice as

they double back to their origin.



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Figure II-23 Trail Counts from May 2016 to December 2017


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Figure II-24 Trails Counts for Days of the Week


NIRPC staff attends to each of these boxes on a regular basis and extracts the resulting data. This data in turn gets downloaded online and then mapped over a specific time frame. The data can be presented as raw numbers, or as line or pie charts either separately, or compared with other counter locations.


Figure II-23 presents preliminary data from the counter locations, excluding the one on the Prairie-Duneland Trail in Chesterton due to an equipment malfunction. These counts were compiled between May 22, 2016 and

December 6, 2017, or the height of usage on trails. From these numbers it is clear the Erie-Lackawanna Trail is the most utilized in NW Indiana of those counted, with a daily average use of 213 persons.


The balance of daily counts from the other trails hold relatively equal with an average of approximately 200 users per day.


As for what day of the week is more popular for trail use in NW Indiana, Figure II-24 highlights this data. It should be no


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R E C R E A T I O N

surprise that both Saturday and Sunday rank as the most popular days for trail use, with Sunday topping all days. The work week remains steady, with Monday being the preferred day for use.


COMPARISONS WITH NATIONAL TRENDS

The survey data collected demonstrate a number of correlations with national trends regarding trail use. These key parallels include the following:



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Figure II-25 Distribution of Trail User Activity (Indiana Trails Study, Eppley Institute, 2001

for these is “bike trails.” Figure II-9 shows this is not a true description since a majority of people using trails do so for either walking, running or rollerblading combined. These varied uses clearly demonstrate how trails cater to a wide variety of non- motorized uses.


To emphasize this point, Figure II-9 can be compared to Figure II-25, taken from the Indiana Trails Study, conducted in 2001.

10, a majority of respondents cite exercise as their primary reason for trail use. The Indiana Trails Study backs this finding in Figure II-

26. Further support are a number of user surveys taken nationwide, including one for the Pinellas

Trail in Florida which found 57% of respondents using a trail for exercise purposes8. Clearly trails


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8 Pinellas Trail Users Survey, Metropolitan Plan- ning Organization of Pinellas County, Florida, 2014

are critical elements in advancing the health and welfare of a community.



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9 National Household Travel Survey, U.S. De- partment of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, 2009



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Figure II-26 Trail User Primary Reason for Visiting (Indiana Trails Study, Eppley Institute, 2001

within a half- mile of a facility. The saying, “build it and they will come” has never been more profound. One study in Massachusetts found that among 363 adults the likelihood of using a suburban rail-trail decreased by 42 percent for every quarter-mile increase in distance from home to the trail. A Minneapolis study also found sharp declines in trail use among bicyclists who had to travel

    1. miles or further to access the

      trail11.

      by bicycle, and quite accessible for many walkers. In short, trails can be used for trips in lieu of the automobile – saving money on fuel and improving one’s wellness.


      • Economic Impact: Figures II-13 to II-15 demonstrate how trail users contribute to the local economy through purchases either while on the trail, or buying new equipment related to their trail use. While

        are a number of studies that have undertaken such exhaustive research. One such study comes from the State of Minnesota which calculated over

        $3.2 million in trail-related purchases

        during 2008 alone10.


      • Proximity to trail: A logical connection involves how frequently one uses a trail they live in close proximity to. Figure II-18 demonstrates that a vast majority of trail users live

NIRPC’s surveys didn’t detail the

dollars spent on purchases, there

10 Economic Impact of Recreational Trail Use, Ernesto C. Venegas, Ph.D., Minnesota Depart- ment of Employment, November 2009

11 The Power of Trails for Promoting Physical Activity in Communities, Active Living Re- search, January 2011



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R E C R E A T I O N

R E C R E A T I O N

RECREATION GOALS & OBJECTIVES

Based on the information described in the Recreation chapter, the following goals and objectives are proposed.

Further detail to each objective can be found in Chapter V – Implementation. A series of tables are presented where action steps are provided for each objective, and broken down based on responsibilities of the Greenways Eight stakeholders.


GOAL R1: Encourage and promote regional coordination and planning in trail development


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GOAL R2: Promote the benefits of trails

entities to fund regionally significant

routes

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