In Utah, snowmobile use generates substantial economic activity that is concentrated in the population centers along the Wasatch Front and accrues largely to equipment, gasoline, and food retailers. Snowmobile registrations have been steady over the past two decades while the state’s population has grown, showing a decline in participation rates across the state.
In Whitefish, Montana, outdoor recreation is the most important reason why residents stay and visitors come to the community. On the Whitefish Trail, 22,000 annual uses by visitors (30% of total use) generates $3.6 million in spending and supports 68 jobs.
In Helena, Montana, an 80-mile hiking and mountain biking trail system attracts more than 63,000 trail users during the summer. Seven in 10 users are residents, but visitors who use the trail system account for $4 million in spending, support 60 jobs, and generate $185,000 in state and local taxes.
West of Atlanta, Georgia, the Silver Comet Trail plans to double its 61 miles. This is expected to bring more than 500,000 new tourist visits and $30 million in new spending to the area, while also generating substantial new tax revenues for the state through taxes on sales, income, and newly developed residential properties near the trail.
In southeastern Michigan, the Huron River Trail benefits the community through spending at local businesses, higher property values along the river, and recreational enjoyment. The authors also measure benefits from biological diversity, wetland flood reduction, and aesthetic values but these are connected to the river, not just the trail.
Across Idaho, the counties with the most snowmobile use and associated spending on trips are the counties with the best access to snowmobile trails. Spending on equipment, which is highly lucrative, happens mostly in population centers and not in the destination communities.
In northwest Arkansas, a substantial investment in paved and unpaved trails has contributed substantially to the region’s well-being (measured in improved health) and economic performance (measured in visitor spending and employee retention). Evidenced by residents’ interest in living close to trails and willingness to pay more for homes near trails, cycling is an essential part of life in this region.
Off-highway vehicle users in Idaho take about 500,000 trips annually to counties away from their home towns and spend $186 million during these trips. The rural counties near population centers get the most visits, but spending on trips and equipment remains mostly in the larger cities.
An extensive motorized trail system in rural southwest Virginia has brought substantial new spending to the community, helping to diversify the area’s traditionally coal-based economy. The estimated economic impact is less than the predicted impacts before the system was built, but the impacts nonetheless exceed state and local investments.
In Burlington, Vermont, a lakefront trail is visited mostly by locals, who use it for both recreation and transportation. Closest to downtown Burlington, non-locals use the trail as much as locals and non-local day trips account for the greatest spending in the community.
Across Oregon, snowmobilers account for approximately 353,000 user days per year and $15 million in spending associated with snowmobile trips. Respondents are most concerned about the availability of backcountry, off-trail riding opportunities and sustaining access to existing riding areas.
Across Oregon, off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders account for approximately 3.1 million days of riding per year and nearly $100 million in spending. Sixty percent of respondents support increasing the OHV registration fee from $10 to $15, and more than half identify the maintenance of existing trails as the most important funding priority.
Across New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine, the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) draws 90,000 users annually. Although most users visit areas with other attractions and established tourist infrastructure like hotels and restaurants, the smaller number of visitors to remote parts of the trail bring valuable outside spending.
Along the coast, the Maine Island Trail connects 183 islands along 375 miles of coastline, attracting 11,385 users per year who bring $553,000 in new spending to the area. This is an excellent example of an economic impact study that carefully identifies new spending that would not have occurred without the trail, as opposed to spending that would happen regardless of the trail’s presence.
The Erie Pittsburgh Trail, a network of six connected rail trails in rural northwest Pennsylvania, draw 158,507 users each year. Nine of ten trail users are from Pennsylvania and more than half of all users are riding bikes.
Across upstate New York, the 277-mile Erie Canalway Trail is associated with 1.6 million annual visits, only three percent of which come from outside the region. However, because those non-locals spend large amounts on lodging, the trail generates more than $55 million in spending annually.
This thorough study of a 111-mile regional trail network around Columbus, Ohio found that trail users travelled roughly 11.9 million miles in 2014, mostly by bicycle. Higher population density, easy access from neighborhoods, connection to other trails, and longer trails are associated with greater use.
Water trails in Pennsylvania are popular with resident anglers and paddlers, as are shoreline activities like picnicking and wildlife viewing. A sample of four of the state’s 21 water trails were associated with 14,000 visitor days over a six-week period in late summer, and $537,000 in spending.
Mountain biking in Oakridge, Oregon contributes substantial economic activity to a small, isolated community deeply affected by the loss of timber jobs. Although the recent rapid growth in the area’s popularity has some residents concerned about cultural change, user conflicts, and environmental concerns, the author is confident these challenges can be overcome.
This report on the potential for mountain bike tourism in Santa Cruz County, California demonstrates how trail advocates can use existing research studies to help make a case for trail development in their community. The authors argue that the presence of significant bike industry companies, a large existing social trail network, and appealing climate and terrain create a strong potential for mountain bike tourism.