How to cite this study
Fitzhugh, E.C., Gregory, D. and Sims, C. 2023. The Knoxville Urban Wilderness Trail System and Baker Creek Preserve Bike Park: A Profile of Users and Physical Activity. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee.
This study is listed as the first in a series of Knoxville Urban Wilderness (KUW) health and economic impact reports. This paper details the number of KUW users during 2021. Findings include that the users of the KUW trail system are predominately white, adult males, and that mountain biking, running, and walking are the most popular activities.
This study is relevant to those interested in visitation patterns and demographic use of outdoor recreational spaces. In the study, recreation programs that promote diversity, equity, and access to outdoor spaces such as trail running and mountain biking groups are listed, which may be useful information for leaders who wish to improve equity in access to outdoor recreational spaces.
The research method to estimate trail use and general demographics is broadly applicable to many larger-scale outdoor spaces, as the authors use direct observations in combination with infrared trail scanners. Though direct observations were used to improve the validity of the infrared trail counters, the trail users count may be an overestimation since users may pass through multiple scanners in longer walks or runs.
This study is located in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Knoxville Urban Wilderness (KUW) contains more than 50 miles of multi-use trails near downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.
In 2015, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, estimated that the Knoxville Urban Wilderness contributed $14.7 million dollars to the local economy. However, this estimate was questionable because the researchers did not know the number of people who used the KUW trail system. Therefore, the purpose of this paper was to measure the number and demographics of people using the KUW trails and bike park for recreation to address the limitations in previous research and contribute to the overall literature of trail estimations and accessibility.
- An estimated 303,782 people used the KUW trails in 2021.
- Approximately 7 out of 10 people using the KUW trails and bike park were male.
- In the KUW trails, 83.7% of users were adults aged 18-65 years, while in the bike park 54% of users were considered adults. More children and teenagers were seen in the bike park at 43.5% of users compared to 10.9% of users on the trails.
- There were three main types of activity on the trails: mountain biking at 51% of users, walkers at 38.4% of users, runners at 10% of users, and other physical activity at 0.6% of users.
To estimate the number of users on the KUW trails and the bike park, infrared trail counters and direct observations were used. Eleven infrared trail counters were installed in 2021 throughout the KUW which reported timestamps that were automatically uploaded to an online database each time a person passed through. At each location, the mean daily counts were used to predict a yearly estimate of uses on each trail. The direct observations were conducted by UTK researchers and students in April 2021, June 2021, October 2021, and January 2022. This was also done to improve the validity of the infrared trail counters. For example, the sensor could be activated by large enough dogs or people walking side by side who were counted only as one user. The direct observations also noted broad demographic categorizations such as gender (male or female), age (child, teen, adult, older adult), race (Latino, Black, Other Race, White), and type of physical activity (bicycling, walking, running, or other).
Added to library on November 7, 2023