The Napa Valley Vine Trail on a typical sunny Saturday or Sunday looks like a hit, with plenty of walkers, runners and cyclists to be seen.
But that’s just anecdotal evidence. The Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition is using electronic sensors at three locations in and near the city of Napa to count users.
The verdict suggested by the cold, hard numbers: the Vine Trail is, indeed, a hit.
Those sensors tallied more than 71,000 users at the three locations from May 23 to July 22. Two counting locations are at the two ends of the Napa-to-Yountville segment and the other is just north of Imola Avenue.
The Vine Trail has passed the test, at least as far as its bigger booster — the Vine Trail Coalition — is concerned.
“We’re finding out a lot of really great stuff,” Vine Trail Coalition Executive Director Philip Sales said. “One of the things that surprised us is how many people are actually using the trail.”
Sales said the Vine Trail Coalition thought newer trail sections might take more time to build up usage to the levels they are already experiencing.
The most popular of the three locations is just north of Imola Avenue. The sensor counts how many people use the one-mile segment linking Third Street and the downtown area with the South Napa Century Center, with its movie theaters and stores. Users can continue south to Kennedy Park.
On average, 238 pedestrians and 243 cyclists pass by the sensor daily. But in reality, this average is obtained with higher numbers coming on weekends with 20 percent of the overall usage coming on Saturday and 19 percent on Sunday, compared to 11 percent on Wednesday.
The number of pedestrians is particularly high here, with spikes of more than 450 on two Saturdays. Other Vine Trail segments see far more cyclists then pedestrians.
Sales said one likely reason for the high foot traffic is that people can use this section of Vine Trail to reach the Napa Farmers Market. The market is held Tuesday and Saturday mornings at South Napa Century Center.
“It seems that particular area leads to people walking,” he said.
The six-mile Vine Trail segment linking Napa and Yountville offers another type of attraction. Sandwiched between Solano Avenue and Highway 29, it includes a long stretch with views of rural vineyards.
The north end near Yountville averages 64 pedestrians and 323 cyclists daily, for a total of 387 users. The south end near Salvador Avenue averages 56 pedestrians and 244 cyclists for a total of 300 users.
For the Vine Trail Coalition, the counts provide information to be used when trying to attract grants for future Vine Trail segments.
The Vine Trail Coalition deploys sensors provided by the company Eco-Counter that sense body heat. It also deploys detectors in the ground that can sense bicycles so those numbers can be separated out.
Meanwhile, the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District from May 2016 to April 2017 used cameras to count trail users. It found that 20,000 people used the trails in Moore Creek Park near Lake Hennessy in the mountains east of Rutherford, with 8,000 using Moore Creek Trail, and 6,000 each using Valentine Vista and Lake Hennessey trails.
In April 2017 alone, 2,400 people hiked or biked in Moore Creek Park, the district reported.
“We now have our first reliable counts of how many people are using our trails,” district General Manager John Woodbury said.
During the same one-year period, more than 18,000 people used the Oat Hill Mine Trail. The trail follows an 8.3-mile former stagecoach route into the mountains east of Calistoga. The district estimated only 5,000 people annually used the trail in the early 1990s.