Trail safety is paramount in Paragould, Ark., and city officials proved it again in 2022 by installing trail cameras as part of the improvements along 8 Mile Creek trail. This trail is 4.2 miles long and paved 10 feet wide; it opened in 2021.
James Kashak, Paragould director of parks and recreation, noted that the trail runs along a creek that traverses the city. “There are groups that meet on Saturdays on the trail, and it is used more throughout the year. It is a great addition to our park system.”
As one of the most locally traveled trails, ensuring members of the community feel safe and protected is important as they enjoy the new natural feature.
The city’s information technology department is in charge of getting cameras placed along the trails, choosing their locations and handling service and maintenance. According to Shane Stovall, Paragould’s information technology director, a primary reason the city chose to install cameras along all the local trails was that the trails receive high foot traffic, especially in warmer weather.
“These improvements were necessary so that our police department and emergency medical services personnel could quickly and appropriately respond to distress or health incidents that may occur,” Stovall explained. “They also address issues of personal safety for someone who may want to go out and walk the trails alone but may not otherwise feel safe enough to do so.”
Funding for the 8 Mile Creek project was kept in-house, so improvements are budgeted and approved by the city council. The trail camera improvements were fairly low-budget and easy to install, which made additional funding unnecessary.
The cameras selected were based on the city’s specific needs when it came to that trail. Stovall explained, “We chose cameras based on the functionality we needed as well as being limited to what types of power sources we could utilize on our trails. The cameras we chose allow customizable recording settings, pan tilt and zoom functions, audio and motion detection. With the motion-activated and solar-powered lights, we can monitor for distress or incidents while our citizens use the public trail, providing them with peace of mind.”
The locations for the cameras were chosen based on the amount of traffic seen on certain portions of the trail as well as areas on the trail that were stated to be widely used and need greater safety precautions. As Stovall described, they are “primarily where you can enter and exit the trail and areas where visibility is low from our main roads. With the affordability and pan tilt and zoom functions of the cameras, we have plans to expand our coverage so that most, if not all, of the trail can be viewed by the appropriate emergency personnel.”
As an added way to keep costs down and make installation easier, the municipality decided that the type of camera they went with would use the sun as its energy source.
“Because these cameras are solar-powered, the hardware and assembly time is greatly reduced compared to other setups for camera boxes,” Stovall stated. “Depending on the location of the camera and other environmental factors, once the camera box is ready to install, it can take between 10 and 30 minutes to have one up and operational.”
Paragould parks have more citywide planned improvements on the way. Kashak said the department is looking to use grant money to add extensions to several parks and trails, including 8 Mile Creek trail, which would be extended to 6 miles. Benches and an outdoor workout station are on the agenda as well.
Currently, the trail connects three park systems, one high school and various businesses along the way. Once it is extended, the goal is to have the trail also reach the city’s senior center and public library. The city is also hoping to connect the trail with Crowley Ridge State Park. To cities looking for ways to make trails safer and thinking about installing cameras along trail systems, Stovall suggested, “Communication with your city council and other internal departments is crucial. When everyone is on the same page with the need and scope of the project, things go smoothly. Research the available manufacturers and companies that provide the types of cameras you’d like, and test out one or more brands or cameras before purchasing a large amount for your project. Lastly, look for ways to do things more efficiently and continue to incorporate those as you work on future projects.”