If you have taken a hike on the Union Canal Trail recently, you may have noticed a few new additions along the way.
Berks County spokeswoman Stephanie M. Weaver said in a press release this week that 60 new markers were installed in January and that the parks department plans to install several point of interest markers in the upcoming months.
She said the markers are a great tool for visitors interested in knowing how far they have traveled but are even more important in assisting the department of emergency services when someone is in need.
The markers, each of which have been assigned a number and letter, will be placed every 528 feet spanning six miles of the Union Canal Trail that stretches from Reading to Blue Marsh Lake. The exact location of each has been entered into the county's mapping system, making it easier for first responders to find a specific spot along the trail.
Weaver said the parks and recreation department had been thinking about installing a trail marking system for several years but the project became a priority in 2020 after an increase in park and trail usage during the coronavirus pandemic.
"This past year, with COVID and the shutdown orders, our parks were significantly busier over the spring and summer months and we had quite a few more incidents out on the trail," park ranger supervisor Eric Seidel said.
Brian Gottschall, director of emergency services, said being able to rapidly establish the location of someone calling 9-1-1 is a key component in getting the necessary aid to the caller. And while location tracking continues to improve, he pointed out that the strength of that technology depends heavily on the quality of the signal.
"Having physical markers in the field that can be correlated to our mapping in the 9-1-1 center creates a safer environment for folks who are using the county parks system and makes the job of emergency responders easier when they need to locate callers in distress," he said.