Happy Trails: The Effect of a Media Campaign on Urban Trail Use in Southern Nevada
A media campaign to promote a trails information site in Las Vegas, Nevada appears to have significantly increased trail use across most trails studied. The size of the gain in trail use appears to be independent of trail lighting, landscaping, and trail length.
These results are relevant for those interested in the effectiveness of different strategies to increase trail use. While the authors did find significant increases in trail use among the trails studied, it is unclear whether the greater trail use also meant greater physical activity.
The findings from this study differ from studies in the southeastern U.S. and Australia, which found no effect on physical activity from marketing campaigns. However, because the study did not include user intercept surveys and did not include all trails in the area, it may be possible that users simply switched to higher quality trails once they had better information, without increasing overall physical activity.
The study was based in Las Vegas, Nevada (population 613,599 in 2014).
The study evaluated ten urban trails within the city of Las Vegas. The trails are an average of four miles long.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether marketing of specific trails can increase their use, with the goal of increasing physical activity across the community.
This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Trail use increased significantly on seven out of ten trails, and decreased significantly on two trails.
- Among the trails that saw a significant rise in use, trail use increased by an average of 3.7 users per hour. Trails that saw a decrease in use declined by 1.4 users per hour.
- One trail went from very little use—0.14 users per hour—to 8.33 users per hour.
- One of the biggest jumps in use occurred on the longest trail, which may have occurred because this trail became a destination to which people would travel from around the city.
- For the two trails whose use declined, it is possible that with new information available regular users of those trails switched to other, higher quality trails.
The authors collected data on trail use with infrared trail counters installed near trail access points. They collected data in two week-long periods: one in October, prior to the marketing campaign and one in April, after the marketing campaign. The marketing campaign occurred in February and March. The time periods were selected to have similar weather. The authors also conducted manual counts to verify the automatic counters’ accuracy.
The media campaign was conducted by the Southern Nevada Health district, which was launching a searchable trails website. The campaign ran for eight weeks and included radio, print, online ads, billboards, and signs on top of gas pumps. The ads included images of landscapes along the trails. The ads targeted women ages 18-54 and parents of children age 8-15, although it is unclear how the researchers targeted these specific audiences. Materials were produced in English only.
The authors compare mean trail use before and after the media campaign.
Clark, S., T. J. Bungum, M. Meacham, and L. Coker. 2015. “Happy trails: the effect of a media campaign on urban trail use in southern Nevada.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health 12(1): 48-51.