The Tahoe Rim Trail Association is asking volunteers to help with hiker counts and surveys this Saturday, as the group tries to determine how many people are using the 165-mile loop, as well as how to improve non-motorized access to its trailheads.
“We kind of taking a multi-prong approach to get a better idea of the total usage on the trail,” said Mary Bennington, executive director of Tahoe Rim Trail Association.
The nonprofit group has installed additional electronic counters along the trail to tally passersby. In years past, it only had six counters to deploy along the lengthy trail. This summer, it has 18 in use, with counters on loan from the California Tahoe Conservancy and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
“We’re doing them at every major trailhead and a couple major connectors,” Bennington said about the counters, which are positioned out-of-sight on trees and boulders. “Then we’ve got the one-day trail user survey on Saturday, which is more like a backyard bird count, a one-day snapshot.”
The initiative to assess Tahoe Rim Trail usage and ways to improve access is being funded by an On Our Way grant from the TPRA. It’s one of nearly a dozen grants the agency awarded earlier this year.
Volunteers will try to hit all of the trailheads and various parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail this Saturday, July 26, to tally cars and hikers, ask people where they are coming from and where they are going and how they would feel about taking public or private transit to access the trail if it was available.
They also will ask visitors to the Tahoe Basin who are hiking on the trail how much they plan to spend while in the area in an effort to gather data to build the trail’s reputation as not only a recreational asset, but also an economic asset.
The Tahoe Rim Trail Association hopes to see at least 70 to 100 people volunteer to help with the counts and surveys.
“We’re really trying to get an overall view of who’s out there using the trail, how they are getting there and if we could reduce vehicle miles traveled if there were better transportation options,” Bennington said.
Past estimates have put annual trail usage at more than 100,000 people.
“Over the last six to seven years with the few counters we’ve had, I’d guess we have at least 100,000 users every summer. I’m hoping by the end of this summer we’ll have good data with this many counters to have a much better idea of what that usage really is,” Bennington said.
The Tahoe Rim Trail Association is also recruiting volunteers for major weekend-long trail maintenance projects in the Marlette Peak area in August. Those are set for August 1-3 and for August 16-17.
“We’ll drive people up into the Marlette Peak campground, right off our trail, and then from there hike around a mile to where we’re working. We’ll feed them, they just need to provide their own camping stuff and dress appropriately for work,” Bennington said.
People can register for any of the volunteer opportunities and learn more about the trail on the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s website a tahoerimtrail.org.