Residents are making the most of their outdoor exercise time on Hunter tracks, with new data showing vastly increased visitor numbers on two popular paths during lockdown.
Smart meters were installed at the Fernleigh Track Whitebridge entrance and the Tramway Track at Glendale in October last year to count the number of users.
The meters show that from May 21 to July 21, an average of 367 pedestrians and 823 cyclists used the Fernleigh each weekend day.
During the following two months, this jumped to 569 pedestrians and 1225 cyclists - an increase of 55 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.
The first Saturday of spring lured a total of 2563 people to the Fernleigh Track - the most on any day in the past four months.
A total of 57,945 pedestrians and cyclists used the iconic 15km former rail corridor between May 21 and July 21, compared to 87,717 the following two months.
There was an even bigger increase on the Tramway Track.
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There, weekend daily use by pedestrians jumped 160 per cent, and there was 76 per cent increase in cyclist patronage.
"This smart technology backs up what we have been hearing anecdotally and seeing for ourselves," Lake Macquarie Council's manager asset management Helen Plummer said.
"Demand for outdoor exercise spaces, particularly along our shared pathways, is at unprecedented levels during the COVID lockdown."
Council said the increased usage of the Fernleigh Track had led to a growing number of maintenance requests.
In the past three months, crews have repaired cracks, fixed track fencing and removed rocks and dirt that fall from the verges on either side of the track.
Council said there had not been an increase in the number of complaints about antisocial behaviour or dangerous practices.
Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said this was a great result from the community.
"That's a fantastic reflection on the vast majority of people who do the right thing, abide by the rules and share the track kindly with others," Cr Fraser said.
"Outdoor recreation and exercise are so important for our physical and mental wellbeing, now more than ever. This new usage data shows us we're on the right track investing further to expand the city's shared pathway network and promote active transport across Lake Macquarie."
Work began this month on the final stage of the Speers Point to Glendale shared path, while more than 600m of pathway has been laid along the southern section of the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track, which will link the Belmont end of the Fernleigh Track to Blacksmiths.