Through 12 states and the District of Columbia, the Great American Rail-Trail® will attract 25.6 million trips and generate more than $229.4 million in spending.
East North Central
The outdoor recreation economy contributes $7.8 billion, or 2.4% to Wisconsin’s GDP and generates more than 93,000 jobs across diverse sectors.
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.
A formal walking program for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) finds that low-intensity walks in an urban park are associated with significantly greater improvement in cognitive function than similar walks in residential or downtown settings. The improvements measured are on par with improvements associated with the most typical medications prescribed for ADHD, and cognitive performance for participants after walking is comparable to the average performance of children who have not been diagnosed with ADHD.
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.
In northern Wisconsin, 95 percent of participants in non-motorized events are non-local, and these participants take more than four trips per year to the area on average, generating substantial economic impact. The two most important factors affecting non-residents’ decision to visit were the quality of trails and the quality of trail mapping and signage.
In southwestern Wisconsin, a 47-mile trail is a destination for non-local motorized trail users, who generate over $13 million dollars in spending each year. When the study was conducted, the railroad owner had petitioned to rebuild a portion of the rail line along the trail. This study was used to demonstrate the trail’s benefits to communities near the trail.
A 98-mile rail trail in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota attracts roughly 46,400 visits per year, with trail users spending $118 per trip, on average. Despite high visitation and spending, the trail’s economic impact could be increased with better connections between nearby towns, and through businesses-like bike shops that target trail users.
This study found that bicycling in Michigan generates $224 million annually through retail spending, manufacturing, and event and tourism spending. Additionally, the improved health of those who commute to work by bicycle in the state is associated with up to $256 million in avoided annual health care costs.
This study found that 13 million days of cycling occur in Wisconsin each year, roughly half of which are taken by non-residents who contribute $309 million to the state’s economy. The health benefits associated with increased physical activity for residents could reduce annual healthcare costs in Milwaukee and Madison alone by up to $320 million, and less pollution due to fewer car trips is associated with as much as $89 million in benefits.
This study found that Illinois’ regional trails receive very high use, mainly cycling and walking, particularly in metropolitan areas. Trails mostly generate benefits in terms of health impacts for local residents, one-third of whom used trails at least 21 times in the previous year and exercised for at least 150 minutes during each trail visit.
This study found that the Chequamegon trail system in northern Wisconsin attracts numerous mountain bikers, who generate a sizable economic impact. According to trail users, the most important aspects of the trails are its natural, quiet setting and lack of motorized vehicles.
This study found that across three communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, water trails have created a destination for non-local paddlers interested in multi-day trips. Communities are able to capture this economic opportunity only if businesses are immediately on the water or easily accessed via trail or shuttle, and if there are businesses that cater to paddlers, such as restaurants, lodging and camping, and shuttle and rental services.
This study found that the Little Miami Scenic Trail in southwest Ohio is associated with higher property values for nearby properties, across the urban, suburban, and rural sections of the trail. On average, homes sell for an additional $7 for every foot closer to the trail, up to about a mile away from the trail. For example, a house a half mile away from the trail would sell, on average, for $18,612 less than a house that is identical in all other aspects but is adjacent to the trail.
This study found that trails in six Indiana cities are very popular with residents, especially those who live closest to the trail, and including residents in volunteer patrols and maintenance can improve the trail experience for others and solidify residents’ support for the trails. The benefits of these trails can be expanded if cities are able to increase use by commuters and visitors.
This study found that the benefits of trails in Indian Country may be more significant than in other communities that are less culturally or spatially fragmented, less politically and economically marginalized, or less culturally tied to the landscape. Trails can provide particularly valuable benefits to residents of Indian Country, helping to improve residents’ quality of life in several dimensions: connecting tribal members to each other and to culturally significant sites and natural resources; providing safe alternative transportation routes across the reservation; providing opportunities for safe exercise; and providing opportunities for economic development and cultural education.
This study found that the qualitative benefits to property owners–including access to recreation and the natural world and connection to neighbors–far outweigh the negative effects of living adjacent to a multiuse trail in this study. The negative effects, including trespassing, less privacy, and dog waste, were not widespread across users and may be mitigated with trail design.
This study found that in Indianapolis property values are higher when homes are located near conservation areas without trails or near high-profile, destination trails, but are not any different when they are located near less-popular trails. Individual trail users place a positive value on being able to use trails, which is sufficiently high to justify the expense of trail construction and maintenance.