A cost-benefit analysis of bike and pedestrian trails use in Lincoln, Nebraska to reduce health care costs associated with inactivity showed that annual trail use cost per capita was $209.28 ($59.28 for construction and maintenance, $150 for equipment and travel) and annual direct medical benefits of trail use was $564.41.
In Pennsylvania, greenways protect natural resources and rural legacy, provide communities with economic opportunities, conserve historic and cultural resources, provide opportunities for public recreation, health and fitness; enable outdoor educational opportunities, assist in the planning and shaping of communities, provide alternative and safe modes of transportation and part of the state’s tourism industry. For example, the Pittsburgh to Cumberland Trail attracts 500,000 visitors a year, has allowed restaurants and bed and breakfasts along the trail to flourish and grow, proximity to it has become a key factor in home sales in the area, and its revenues are far greater than its maintenance costs.
Rivers, trails, and greenway corridors (linear open spaces connecting recreational, cultural and natural areas) have the potential to create jobs, enhance property values, expand local businesses, attract new or relocating businesses, increase local tax revenues, decrease local government expenditures, and promote a local community. This resource book aims to encourage local professionals and citizens to use economic concepts as part of their effort to protect and promote greenways; provides examples of how greenways and parks have benefited local and regional economies, and demonstrates how to determine the potential economic impacts of river, trail, and greenway projects.
The Ghost Town Trail, a 36-mile multi-use pathway in Pennsylvania between Ebensburg in Cambria County and Saylor Park in Black Lick, Indiana County has an estimated 75,557 annual user visits. Between April and October 2009, visitors spent $1.7 million on food and overnight accommodations in conjunction with a trail visit. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed had purchased hard goods (bikes, bike accessories, clothing, etc.) in the past year in conjunction with their use of the trail at an average cost of $357.63 and twelve percent of respondents stayed overnight in conjunction with their visit, spending an average of $78.04 nightly on lodging.
Investments made in building in maintaining trails and greenways are outweighed by the revenue they bring to a community: they attract tourists, enrich the overall quality of life of a community, attract new businesses and homeowners and serve as catalysts for community revitalization. An example of how trails economically benefit communities is the Pinella trail in Florida which caused the adjacent downtown to go from a 35% storefront vacancy to a 100% storefront occupancy with a waiting list for available space.
In 2007, 85% of surveyed visitors to the Heritage Rail Trail County Park, a 21-mile corridor in York County, PA which connects with the 20-mile North Central Rail Trail in Maryland, purchased hard goods (defined as bike, bike accessories, auto accessories, shoes or clothing) in conjunction with their trail use, at an average cost of $367/person. Seventy-two percent of survey respondents purchased soft goods (water, soda, candy, ice cream, lunches, etc.) with an average expenditure per person per trip of $12.66.
This guide provides seven steps communities can use to capitalize on the economic development opportunities a new recreation trail can bring to a community. It provides several case studies of communities that have successfully incorporated trails into their economic development, including Lanesboro, MN, which following the opening of the Root River State Trail, saw the number of B&Bs go from one to ten along with the establishment of enough restaurants and activities to support a tourist economy.
On the Greenbrier River Trail corridor in West Virginia, during a 17-day period in October 2000, an overwhelming majority of trail users were highly educated, white-collar professionals with high income levels, two-thirds were from outside of West Virginia, 93% were staying in the area from one to four days, 58% spent between $100 and $500 in the area and 93% indicated that they were highly likely to plan a return trip. Out-of-state visitors spent a total of $82,315.
In a survey of trail users of Maryland’s 20-mile Northern Central Rail Trail, 89.5%, of users were Maryland residents and 28% traveled more than 20 miles to reach the trail. Eighty-two percent of respondents purchased hard goods (bikes, bike accessories, clothing, etc.) in the past year in conjunction with their use of the trail at an average cost of $333.12. Sixty-two percent of respondents purchased soft goods (water, soda, candy, ice cream, lunches, etc.) on their most recent trail outing at an average purchase price of $9.41 per person.
In 2008, 46.7% of visitors to Pennsylvania’s Perkiomen Trail, a 19-mile multi-use trail between Green Lane Park in Upper Frederick Township, and Oaks in Upper Providence Township purchased soft goods at an average cost of $11.09 per trip. Three percent stayed overnight as part of their trail experience.
The Pine Creek Rail Trail is a 62.6-mile trail in north-central Pennsylvania that passes through the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania”. In 2006, 82% of trail users surveyed purchased hard goods in conjunction with their trail use with an average expenditure of $354, and 86% purchased food at an average purchase per person cost on their most recent trail outing of $30. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents had an overnight stay in conjunction with a trail excursion.
The Schuylkill River Trail, a multi-use pathway that generally follows the course of the Schuylkill River from Pottsville to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has an estimated 802,239 annual trail users. Seventy eight percent of respondents to a trail use survey purchased hard goods in the past year in conjunction with their use of the trail at an average cost of $406.31 and the 50% who purchased food in conjunction with their most recent trail visit spent an average of $9.07.
Trails allow communities to increase commerce, support and create jobs, increase property values, reduce commuter costs and provide low-cost health benefits by encouraging exercise. Two examples are: After just one season following the opening of the Missouri River State Trail, 61 businesses along the trail found the trail positively impacted their businesses, 11 said it strongly influenced their decision on where to locate, and 17 increased their business size. A 1995 survey of metro-Denver real estate agents found 73% believed a home near a trail would be easier to sell.
On average, owners of businesses near or along the Great Allegheny Passage indicated that ¼ of their gross revenue was directly attributed to trail users and two-thirds reported that they experienced at least some increase in gross revenue because of their proximity to the trail. Over one-quarter of all businesses that were surveyed mentioned that they have expanded, or plan to expand, their operations or staff numbers because of the impact of the trail, and between 2007 and 2008 these business attributed $23,878,495 of their revenue to the trail.
A trail survey of the Virginia Creeper Trail (VCT) found that, between November 1, 2002 and October 31, 2003 there were an estimated 130,172 trail users who traveled an average of 154 miles to reach the trail. The total annual economic impact from VCT trips is estimated at $1.59 million.
Annually, about 1.7 million adults use the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, a 45-mile long transportation and recreation corridor running west from Arlington, VA to Purcellville, VA, and spend $12 million/year related to their trail use, of which about $7 million is spent directly in the local economy. Local tail users spend about $5.3 million directly related to their use of the trail and nonlocal visitors spend about $74 per person to visit, of which $15 per person is spent in the northern Virginia economy directly related to trail use.
The study found that in 2014 this Pittsburgh trail received roughly 622,873 visits resulting in an economic impact of $8,286,026. 75.5% of users were city residents, 15.5% lived in the county outside of Pittsburgh and 9% came from further away.
This manual helps the reader implement a trail user survey and determine the economic impact a trail has on local communities. It discusses how to establish project goals, determine who to interview, choose a data collection methodology, create a questionnaire, collect and analyze data, and produce a report.
Over sixty miles of trails in the Oil Heritage Region of Venango County and 75% of surveyed trail users cited the trails as their main reason for coming to the area. Non-local trail users spent an average of $32.93 per day and local users spent a daily average of $3.71 per person. The estimated 82,930 people who used the trails between July and October 2006 created an economic benefit of $2.22 million within the Oil Heritage Region and the estimated 160,792 people who used the trail during all of 2006 created an estimated overall economic impact of $4.31 million.