Digital tech will track Marin trail visitors

Infrared devices that work like TV remote controls will soon help the Marin County Open Space District keep a digital count of visitors on 10 roads and trails in the District.

Sensors called Eco-Counters will be placed at different heights to detect a passer-by whether it’s a hiker, mountain biker or equestrian. The data then will be transmitted remotely and integrated into software to help analyze visitation trends available to the public and the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

The 5-year pilot program will start this spring. The technology will enable seasonal nighttime closure of some trails between Feb. 1 and July 31 to benefit sensitive wildlife including northern spotted owls that are nesting at certain times of the year.

Marin County Parks Director Max Korten said:

“Historically, collection of visitor data involved our staff being stationed on the trails to do manual tallies. … Going digital with around-the-clock collection is more accurate and more cost efficient for the County.”

The Eco-Counters are already used at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to collect data 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The devices do not take photo images and will not be used to trail-use enforcement purposes. Signs will be posted on trails where the Eco-Counters are installed, and details about the program are included on the Marin County Parks website.