Trails Month: Trail Events, Trail Mileage, and Residential Access

June is National Trails Month, and in honor of that (and National Trails Day, coming up on Saturday, June 3), we’re taking a look at trails in the Champaign County area: what the mileage and residential access are, what the local trail plans and jurisdictions are, and what local events are coming up on National Trails Day.

What is the trail mileage in our area? What is the residential access to trails? What additional data would be useful?

We’ve assessed both trail mileage and trail access at three levels of geography: all of Champaign County, the five largest municipalities in Champaign County (Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul, Savoy, and Mahomet), and Champaign-Urbana alone.

First, we’ll look at trail mileage.

Table: Trail Mileage: Champaign County AreasDownload table data for Trail Mileage: Champaign County Areas.

Source: CUUATS Data Portal; Champaign County GIS Consortium.

As one would expect, the greatest trail mileage is in the largest area: all of Champaign County. But the difference between the trail mileage of the whole county and the trail mileage of the five largest municipalities within the county is very small, only half a mile. And over three-quarters of the county’s total trail mileage is within Champaign-Urbana.

Next, we’ll check out residential access.

Table: Trail Access: Champaign County AreasDownload table data for Trail Access: Champaign County Areas.

Source: CUUATS Data Portal; Champaign County GIS Consortium.

We calculated trail access in the same way we calculate our Accessibility indicators (Access to Bicycle Infrastructure, Access to Parks, and Access to Transit). Based on parcel land use, we generated a total number of residential parcels within our three areas of interest. We then performed a geographic analysis to determine how many of the total parcels in each area fall within a half mile and a quarter mile of a trail, and presented that as a percentage.

This method does have a few shortfalls. For the sake of simplicity, the distance of any given parcel from a trail is measured as linear distance, rather than the walking distance that it would take for residents of that parcel to reach the trail. This method greatly increases the ease of analysis, but may not be an accurate representation of actual walking distance from some parcels.

Methodological disadvantages aside, the residential access data tells a similar story to the trail mileage data. Residential access to trails is greatest in Champaign-Urbana for both half-mile and quarter-mile distances. The difference between residential access in Champaign-Urbana and residential access in the five largest municipalities is relatively small, only a couple of percentage points. But residential access in all of Champaign County, which includes all of the strong residential access in the five largest municipalities, trails (pun absolutely intended) residential access of the other two areas by over 20 percentage points for the half-mile distance and almost 15 percentage points for the quarter-mile distance.

These percentages may change when the first phase of the Kickapoo Rail Trail opens, which is anticipated to happen late this summer. The almost seven miles of trail between Urbana and St. Joseph will add to the trail mileage and to the residential access statistics.

But there’s more to trails data than mileage and access. Data about trail usage, like bicycle and pedestrian counts, can be helpful in applying for grant funding and planning additional outreach. A local average cost per mile for trail construction would be another useful figure for trail planning. However, there are challenges associated with both of these data needs. Traffic counts, whether bicycle, pedestrian, or vehicle, are time-consuming when collected manually, and construction costs can differ based on circumstantial and site-based factors. So while these pieces of data would be useful to have, they are not immediately available.

What are the existing trails jurisdictions? What existing trails plans are there in our area?

Trails can be held by a variety of jurisdictions. Many are held by the Champaign Park District, Urbana Park District, and Champaign County Forest Preserve District. Others are held by municipalities: the City of Champaign, City of Urbana, Village of Mahomet, Village of Rantoul, and Village of Savoy. Several, all physically located within the Village of Mahomet, are held by IDOT. Some are institutionally held, by the University of Illinois or the Urbana School District, while others are private.

There are a number of existing trails plans in the Champaign County area: the Champaign Park District Trails Master Plan, the Urbana Park District Trails Master Plan, the Champaign County Greenways & Trails Plan, the Champaign Trails Plan, and the Savoy Bike & Pedestrian Plan. Most of these plans include not only the current state of trails in that jurisdiction, but also a vision for future expansions and improvements.

What are the different ways the public can interact with trails? What trails events are coming up in the Champaign-Urbana area?

The Urbana Park District will hold a National Trails Day event in Busey Woods. This Saturday, June 3rd, starting at 9 a.m., volunteers will be able to both enjoy and improve Busey Woods. Tasks and activities will include hiking, tree planting, and trash and invasive species removal. The National Hiking Society website also lists more information for this event.

Looking for a trail near you so you can get out and about for National Trails Month? Trail locations and information are available on the CUUATS Data Portal. So whether you’re trying to find an off-street bike route or planning a recreational outing, you can find the route that best suits your needs.

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