By Dan Thompson, Ravalli County Off Road User Association (RCORUA)

At a special meeting in December, RCORUAs Board of Directors authorized the purchase of new trail counters.  The Board sees a need to collect quantitative data on OHV trail use in the Bitterroot so the Association can better focus maintenance activities on trails that are more heavily used and to help justify requests for construction of new trails to the Forest Service.

The new counters utilize a space-age magnetometer to detect the passage of vehicles that contain ferrous metals.  The detection unit (on the left in the photo) is typically buried in the ground in or near the trail to be counted.  Memory in the detection unit counts the number of vehicles that pass by every hour, and stores that information for every hour of every day that the unit is deployed.  These data are downloaded periodically from the detection unit to the Dock or “brain box” shown on the right in the photo. The detection unit then can be either replaced at its current position or located to another trail.

Once one or more detection units have been downloaded to the Dock, the data can be transferred to a PC and analyzed by a software package supplied by the manufacturer. The number of vehicles passing a particular location can be displayed by day, month, season, day of the week, etc.

Anyone interested in more details about these counters can visit the manufacturer’s website at http://www.trafx.net.