SACKETS HARBOR The villages recreational walking trails drew strong interest in their first full season of operation, boosted by the War of 1812 bicentennial.
Its been phenomenal, said Daryl K. Giles, director of operations & visitor services for the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center and president of its Volkssport Association, which organizes the recreational walks.
The village has had visitors and bus tours come in from several states and Canada to walk the villages trail, starting from the Ontario Place Hotel, General Smith Drive. Mrs. Giles said the villages trail had 205 people registered as traveling the path. The trail had only 30 visitors in 2011, after opening in September.
Walkers are able to earn a special bicentennial pin for walking the trail areas by leaving cards in designated drop boxes on the trail.
Its incentive for getting out and exploring, Mrs. Giles said.
The villages trail is the eighth stop on a series of nine walks on the trail groups 1812 Walk Series. Other locations are Erie, Pa., Buffalo, Williamsville, Lewiston, Youngstown, Pultneyville, Oswego and Ogdensburg.
She said many walkers did not know of the wars history before coming to the area.
Having people discover the little communities and their history is great, Mrs. Giles said.
She said full participation numbers had not been tallied as of Tuesday. However, she said, by talking with organizers for other stops she learned that the bicentennial pins have increased visitation from around the area, particularly in the Niagara Falls area.
According to the trail association, registrants on the walking trails came to the region from as far away as Texas, California, Washington and Edmonton, Alberta, along with one registrant from Japan.
About a quarter of respondents to a survey about walking the regions trails said they did a walk as a part of a planned day trip, while about a fifth said they had planned an overnight stay to experience the walks, with respondents spending an average of three days around the walking stops.
It made them stay longer and come closer to the trail, Mrs. Giles said.
About another quarter of walkers said they lived near a trail, and a similar number said they had come through a bus tour group.
The trail associations recreational walking association came into existence in 2011, and its success within the past year of organizing walking trails and drawing visitors to the region for the bicentennial has caught the attention of the international body for recreational walking.
Mrs. Giles said the trail groups work will be highlighted in an upcoming issue of the magazine for the International Federation of Popular Sports, which helps coordinate recreational walks worldwide.
More information about the walks can be found at www.seawaytrail.com/volkssport.