Indian Fort Trail: Study touts recreation, health benefits for Berea residents

What has the City of Berea derived from its investment in the Indian Fort Mountain Trail? More recreation for local residents and a healthier community, according to one recent study.

Those were the findings of Dr. Louisa Summers of Berea College, who has been tracking the use of local trails, including the Indian Fort Mountain Trail, which included Stephenson Trail, the Shortline Pike connector, and the stretch of trail that extends from Berea Arena Theater to the parking lot of the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center.

Summers’ three-year study, which was researched with the assistance of students from Berea College’s Entrepreneurship for the Public Good, employed infrared sensors and personal surveys to gather data. Results included:

  1. More people are using the trails than ever, with about 18,000 annually using the Stephenson Trail and 1,000 per month using the recently completed Short Line Pike connector. Trail usage is up by 43% since 2017, according to Summers.
  2. The numbers of people running and biking are increasing, with many cyclists using the trails five times a week, and with runners staying on the trails for an average of 15 minutes longer than two years ago.
  3. Eighty (80) percent of trail users are local residents.
  4. As the network of trails expands in the city, more people are accessing them either by foot or on a bicycle; fewer users are driving a car to get to the trails, compared to previous years.
  5. People are traveling a farther distance on the trails and using them for a longer period of time, spending an average of an hour on the trails, and typically traveling a total of 3.2 miles, the study indicated.

Summers touted the increased trail use as a positive development for the health of Berea residents, since increased exercise is good for heart, good for a healthy brain, and it reduces the chances of disease and premature death.

In concluding her report to the Berea City Council last Tuesday, Summers congratulated city officials for their foresight. “You should be applauded for having the vision to connect these trails and connecting these systems together, and your next endeavor should be to become a bike friendly community,” Summers said.

Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley thanked Summers for her report, adding, “It sounds like with the [health] advantages, we need to get out on the trail more.”

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