County of Marin - News Releases - Open Space District

For Immediate Release
January 11, 2018

Open Space to Count Trail Users with Digital Devices

Eco-Counters to be installed at 10 spots to monitor trends during pilot program

San Rafael, CA – Starting this spring, Marin County Open Space District will use passive infrared technology and Bluetooth data retrieval to study visitation trends in its parks and open spaces in a new five-year pilot program. The device installation at 10 road and trail locations will be coupled with the seasonal nighttime closure of the same trails to benefit sensitive wildlife such as northern spotted owls that are nesting at certain times of the year.

A dirt trail winds through a lush green forestSensors will be installed on some trails to detect a passer-by, whether it’s a hiker, a mountain biker, or an equestrian, and compile the visitation data.
The moves were part of a recently approved settlement between Marin Audubon and the district that includes the installation of the remote counting devices, seasonal night closures on some trails, a 30-day comment period following environmental assessments, and $7,000 to reimburse legal fees.

“This will help inform our planning efforts and ensure that the Open Space District is meeting its mission of preserving, protecting and enriching the natural beauty of our parks and open spaces,” 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 infrared devices, called Eco-Counters, operate much like a TV remote control. Sensors at different heights will detect a passer-by, whether it’s a hiker, a mountain biker, or an equestrian, and compile the data. The statistics are transferred remotely and integrated into software that helps analyze visitation trends. Visitation information will be shared with the public and the Board of Supervisors periodically.

The Eco-Counters, which are already in use in other recreational open spaces such as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, collect the data 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They do not take photo images and they will not be used for trail-use enforcement purposes. Signs will be posted on the trails where the Eco-Counters are installed and details about the program will be included on the Parks website.

For the first year of the five-year program, the Eco-Counters will be installed at the following locations:

  • Boulder Springs Trail, Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve
  • Willis Evans Trail, Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve
  • Hunt Camp Trail, Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve
  • Haute Lagunitas Trail, Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve
  • Fairway Trail, Camino Alto Open Space Preserve
  • Octopus Trail, Camino Alto Open Space Preserve
  • Piedmont Trail, Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve
  • Warner Canyon Trail, Blithedale Summit Open Space Preserve
  • Porcupine Trail, White Hill Open Space Preserve
  • Blue Ridge Fire Road, Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve

The seasonal closures will take place on the same trails between February 1 and July 31, corresponding to the northern spotted owl breeding season. Trails will be closed one hour after sunset until sunrise to protect the owls and other sensitive wildlife.


Jon Campo
Senior Natural Resource Planner
Marin County Parks

Marin Civic Center
Suite 260
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-2686
Email: Jon Campo
Marin County Parks website