Sand Creek Greenway: Trail User Survey Report

From Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership

A survey on the urban trail through Denver, Commerce City, and Aurora, Colorado, indicated a lot of satisfaction among greenway users as well as suggestions for improvement.


Background

From June 2011 to September 2011, the staff at the Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership collected feedback from users of the Sand Creek Regional Greenway (SCRG). The information was gathered to understand SCRG trail user habits and opinions to improve the overall trail experience. The data has given us new insight into the flow of SCRG traffic, peak times of commuting and recreating, basic user demographics, and hundreds of personal opinions about the SCRG, including suggestions for improvement.

Staff collected data in two ways:

  1. In-person trail user observations and interviews conducted at seven different locations on the SCRG trail in Commerce City, Denver, and Aurora.
  2. Online survey that was distributed to over 900 email addresses. Both in-person and electronic surveys gathered the following information about each trail user: the reason(s) they use the Greenway; locations where they typically enter and exit the SCRG; frequency of use; how many months or years they have used the trail; thoughts about the SCRG; aspects that could be improved; the city/town of their residence and employment, and their gender and age.

Survey Results

We observed 164 trail users and received 20 comments from our on-site observations and surveys. We received 113 responses to our electronic survey. Both surveys revealed that the vast majority of trail users surveyed live or work in Denver, with a low number of surveyed trail users who live or work in Commerce City. Another interesting finding was that the majority of electronic survey takers reported using the trail for recreational uses only (77%), while only 2% reported using the trail for commuting only; 13% reported using it for both commuting and recreation. This stands in contrast to the findings from our in-person observations, which showed a majority of the SCRG users are commuters who travel via bicycle. Almost 90% of our online survey takers have used the SCRG for over two years, with 52% having used the trail over five years.

The most interesting input we received were the opinions of trail users concerning the SCRG, and their suggestions for ways that the trail can be improved. A majority of comments from the online survey noted the SCRG’s serenity, beauty, and likability. A high number of comments referenced the SCRG as a “gem,” a “treasure,” an “amazing resource,” and many commented on the potential that SCRG has to improve the city wide urban trail system.

The number one suggestion for improving the SCRG concerned increasing the quality of the trail surface. Over one third of trail users commented on the lack of a consistent trail surface, and stressed that some spots of the trail in Denver and Aurora are dangerous for bicyclists due to loose gravel and sandy areas. Nearly a quarter of all responses cited the need for a paved trail in the Denver/Aurora sections. The second most popular suggestion was the need for more infrastructure and signage on the trail. Almost a quarter of all responses stated a need for increased infrastructure, including more directional and information signage, bathrooms, picnic tables, shelters, drinking fountains, trash cans, and parks along the trail.

The third most common response involved increasing the general maintenance of the Greenway. Nearly 20% of all responses suggested cleaning up and/or improving the Greenway, including planting more trees, cleaning up trash, removing concrete debris and twisted metal leftover from the Stapleton airport, painting over graffiti, and removing invasive species (specifically weeds that puncture bike tires).

Other suggestions for improvement included: providing more accessibility to the trail (especially in Stapleton), creating connectivity to other trails (specifically extending the trail to the High Line Canal); improving (and speeding up) the current construction sites in Denver; improving the trail detours in construction areas; and improving safety near overpasses where homeless people congregate.

Conclusion

These surveys provided us with statistical data and trail user feedback that we will use to improve the SCRG through the coming years. Reflecting the desires of our trail users, one of the SCRGP’s top priorities is to build a paved trail parallel to the gravel trail in the Denver section of the Greenway. This will allow for an increased number of commuters to use their road bikes on the paved section, while keeping runners and horseback riders happy by maintaining a gravel trail. We will also improve the condition of the crusher fine in the Denver and Aurora sections.

We are currently fundraising for improved trailheads, parks, trail connections, and shelters. Educational and directional signage will be added throughout the SCRG trail. Hosting more volunteer events, such as the SCRG’s monthly Neighborhood Partners clean-up days, will help to eliminate trash, graffiti and invasive species, while increasing the number of native trees and shrubs.

We would like to thank all of our trail users who participated in the 2011 SCRGP Trail User Survey

Sand Creek Greenway was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2012 and was nominated for a Planning/Design Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards

Published January 01, 2009

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