- Communities considering investing in trails projects often face questions concerning costs, benefits, access, legal issues, and other concerns.
- While every community is unique, research has shown that improving access to trails can bring a wide range of benefits to communities, including increased business, higher property values, better quality of life, and improved public health.
- This trails toolkit helps communities and local leaders better understand whether trails can accomplish local goals, along with the costs and benefits of proposed projects.
Helping Communities Invest Wisely in Trails and Pathways
Communities considering an investment in trails often have questions regarding whether trails can accomplish community development goals such as improving quality of life, public health, or economic opportunity.
One important resource, the searchable Trails Benefits Library, includes more than 130 studies describing different ways communities have measured the benefits of trails.
Research available through the Library shows that improving access to trails can bring a wide range of benefits to communities, including increased business, higher property values, better quality of life, improved public health, and addressing legal concerns.
The trails toolkit immediately below provides links to additional research—ours and others’—that we reference most often to help communities inform their decisions about investing in trails.
Trails Toolkit: Research and Resources
Know your community
Making a case for trails, planning for trails, and knowing where trails are most needed requires understanding the economic and social context in your community.
These data tools allow you to explore your community’s neighborhoods and county-wide economy in-depth.
Measuring the benefits of trails
Researchers have measured the economic, public health, and quality of life benefits from trails in communities around the U.S. Headwaters Economics’ Trails Benefits Library compiles these resources in a searchable database of more than 130 studies, along with printable summaries of business impacts, public health, property values, quality of life, and equitable access for all residents.
The following resources have measured the benefits of trails and outdoor recreation.
- Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) reports on the economic impact of outdoor recreation, at a national, state, and congressional district level
- Measuring Use and Economic Impact from the Whitefish Trail:
- Knight Foundation–Soul of the Community: Overall Findings
- People for Bikes resources on the benefits of bike-based transportation
Trail planning and design resources
Designing a trail system that serves the community’s needs requires well-informed planning.
The following resources highlight example trail plans that have helped other communities envision their trails systems, and apps that communities have found useful in prioritizing and mapping trail corridors.
- Sample Trail Plans
- Technical Guides
As communities consider investments in trails, questions regarding how to fund these investments arise immediately. These resources offer some creative solutions for funding trails.
Developing trail systems may require public funding or other creative solutions. These resources describe funding efforts in other communities, and best practices.
State Offices of Outdoor Recreation
As of December, 2018, 10 states have offices or task forces in charge of promoting outdoor recreation and economic development around their state. These offices can be resources to connect communities with other effects to develop outdoor recreation around the state.
- Colorado Recreation Industry Office
- Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission
- Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation
- North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Industry Office
- Oregon Office of Outdoor Recreation
- Rhode Island Outdoor Recreation Council
- Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation
- Vermont Outdoor Recreation Collaborative
- Washington Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development
- Wyoming’s Outdoor Recreation Office
We would like to thank the LOR Foundation for their generous support of this project.
Search the Library of Trail Benefits: a curated collection of studies about the positive impacts of trails on businesses, public health, and quality of life.