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Posted In: James River

New JRPS trail counters see heavy spring traffic

Andy Thompson

May 20, 2014 4:21pm

Since April 17, if you’ve come through one of the main entrances to the James River Park System, you have been counted.

Trail counters now monimor James River Park System usage.

Infrared and vehicle counters (not this one) now monitor James River Park System usage.

Thanks to twin $2,000 donations from the Friends of the James River Park and the James River Outdoor Coalition, park superintendent Nathan Burrell was able to purchase four infrared counters and two vehicle counters. They were set up at Pony Pasture, the Headquarters/Main Area, Texas Beach, Belle Isle, Ancarrow’s Landing, and the Pump House.

“They’ve been out there since the 17th of last month,” Burrell said. “We’ve pulled the numbers once (at the beginning of May). Going forward, we’re probably going to pull the numbers once a month.”

Burrell said once he puts the counter data into the computer a program crunches them, trying to correct for things like multiple visits and animals tripping the sensors, and gives him an estimate. Care to guess how many people it estimated used the Park between April 17th and May 1?

25,000. In two weeks. With schools still in session.

That is a ton of usage, and it’s not as if there were any hot, humid days in there.


Trail counters come in lots of shapes and sizes.

Burrell said that the JRPS will continue to supplement the trail counters with visitor surveys to understand the kinds of people that use the park and the nature of those uses, but, he said, these hard numbers will serve a number of purposes.

“We can build the case for why we might need more staff or extra equipment and more parking, but … we can also use these numbers to come up with an economic impact of the park on the city.”

It’ll be fascinating to see where the numbers trend as spring becomes summer and the heavy park-usage season begins.


About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?