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.
Business leaders say quality of life issues are highly important when deciding where to locate a new factory or office. Trails and greenways enrich the overall quality of life of a community, making it a more desirable place to live and work by offering residents a place to relax and exercise at lunchtime, an alternative to commuting by automobile, and safe, nearby places to spend time with their families.
Trails provide a good return on investment. A study of Maryland's Northern Central Rail Trail found the state received $303,000/year in trail-related tax income to while the trail's management and maintenance costs were $192,000/year.
Underground utilities may provide an additional source of revenue to help pay for trail improvements and maintenance. Nationwide, 40% of rail trails do double duty as utility corridors. The Town of Lloyd in the Hudson Valley received $400,000 to allow fiber optic cable to be laid under its five-mile rail-trail.
Homebuyers ranked walking and bicycling paths third amongst 42 features they found important.
Greenways and trails can be catalysts for community revitalization, transforming eyesores such as abandoned rail corridors or neglected waterfronts into the community centerpieces. Community trails often become a focus of community pride and a means of preserving and celebrating what is special about a community.
A litter-strewn 2.8-mile stretch of abandoned rail corridor between in Fulton County, NY is now the Johnstown-Gloversville Rail Trail. It is the pride of the communities and a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon. The Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the rail-trail project, hopes to expand it another 14 miles and market it as a tourist destination with tourist information centers at both ends.
In Dunedin, Florida, after the abandoned CSX railroad was transformed into the Pinellas Trail, the downtown went from a 35% storefront vacancy rate to a 100% storefront occupancy with a waiting list for available space.
Since the Katy Hiking and Biking Trail opened in Marthasville, a small, quiet town in Missouri, more than a dozen new businesses have opened and renewed civic pride has led to numerous beautification projects. The western half of the trail generates $3 million annually in local revenue.
Since the opening of the Yough River Trail, the once plentiful vacant buildings in Connellsville, Pennsylvania are now scarce. Many professionals are moving into the downtown and the newly formed Connellsville Festival Committee is busy organizing events.
In Vermont, tourists stay about one day longer in Stowe than in the state’s other resort areas. This extra day and the revenue it generates are attributed to the Stowe Recreation Path, a 5.5-mile multi-use trail.