Pinnacles, other parks, open statewide

Register File photo

The view from one of the trails at Berea Pinnacles

This past weekend was an optimal time for people to escape the tensions of being in a global pandemic and enjoy the views of the Pinnacle trails at Indian Fort in Berea.

The Berea Trail Town Research Team greeted visitors and locals, while maintaining social distancing. The research team made up of: Louisa Summers, professor in the department of Health and Human Performance at Berea College, and Skyllar Gayhart, a junior biology major at Berea College.

As they greeted tourists and locals, Summers and Gayhart encouraged hikers to take their survey via QR code as part of their annual data collection for the Pinnacles. Eighty-seven trail users hiked this past weekend and reported on their trail experience. One hiker described their Pinnacle experience as the "perfect length for hiking that provides great elevation change for cardio workouts, with beautiful views and rock formations."

Last year, the Pinnacles had about 69,000 users, and 79% were visitors from outside the city limits. The economic impact of 45,000 of those visitors estimated spent an average of $13 per person while on their trail. The five minute, 28-question survey asks demographic information, health and physical activity participation and wellness, as well as, tourist and economic impact questions. A surveyor highlighted that their experience was "peaceful and pretty" and described the Pinnacles as the "best hiking spot they've found within two hours from their residence."

The research Summers does is essential for the health and economic survival for Berea and has implications for other trail towns in eastern Kentucky. As COVID-19 ravages through the nation and overwhelms the healthcare industry, outdoor recreation will be a part of a wave of comprehensive community health models for trail towns like Berea. The Trail Town Committee research team will report their economic findings to the city council in late July.

Wellness has been an important area of life for many during the last three months. Of 114 surveyed, 20% stated that relaxation was the second most cited reason for going to the Pinnacles. The connection to the environment and the spiritual dimensions of wellness were satisfied by their trail use.

For more information, contact J.J. Kiboi. Email: kiboij@berea.edu

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