The premise of the synchronized count was that, as the organizations that promote the use of and economic development along the Great Allegheny Passage, the Trail Town Program and the Allegheny Trail Alliance wanted to better understand trail use patterns. Each season we monitor trail use via electronic and manual counts at 10 locations (from Boston in Elizabeth Township to Cumberland, Maryland), but one key piece of information that was missing is how busy the various sections of the trail were in relation to one another. This synchronized count was a first-time effort and took place on the 36th anniversary of the last Western Maryland passenger ride of May 21, 1975. By holding this count, we were out en masse working to understand the tremendous impact this trail (and everyone's local efforts) have had on this region.
We had 24 volunteers counting at about 16 locations, including McKeesport, Boston, Cedar Creek Park, Smithton, Adelaide, Connellsville, Ohiopyle, Confluence, Rockwood, Meyersdale, Deal, Frostburg (Maryland), Woodcock Hollow (Maryland), Cash Valley (Maryland), and Cumberland (Maryland). The volunteers counted trail users simultaneously from noon to 2 pm on Saturday, May 21. The task was to stand at a certain location along the trail (partnered with another volunteer) and tally the number of bikers and walkers who passed by. I had a sheet for each volunteer to note not only how many users have passed but also whether the trail user was going toward the north or south direction, as well as whether the user was a biker or a walker.
This synchronized count was vital to our understanding of trail use dynamics, and we'll be having two additional similar counts during the rest of the summer to gain more insight into the use of the trail. In the meantime, we will continue to do traditional manual counts in the middle of the trail during the whole year. In these counts, we obtain zip codes from trail users and compare our tallies to the data we get from the electronic counters.