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.
In eastern Pennsylvania, the D&L Trail receives approximately 283,000 visits annually, nearly half of whom report using the trail at least once a week. Although the economic impact estimates likely are significantly overstated, the trail’s effect on nearby residents’ health is a substantial, valuable asset.
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.
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.
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.
This study found that the economic impacts of cycling and walking active infrastructure construction, cycling and walking-related businesses, and cycling and walking events in New Jersey are eight times the amount spent on constructing these facilities in the same year.
This study found that older women in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania walk more overall if they live within walking distance of a trail, and those who use trails use them at least twice per week. Proximity to trails had the strongest relationship with increased walking among 14 neighborhood destinations, including parks, retail establishments, and public services.
This study found that many businesses near the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) have experienced increased revenue due to their proximity to the trail, and expect to expand operations to meet demand. The greatest economic impact comes from overnight trail users, who spend seven times as much as day users.
This study found that although user spending on this long-distance Pennsylvania trail is modest, it draws a relatively large number of visitors to the small towns through which it runs. The roughly one in ten users who stay overnight spend substantially more than day visitors.
This study found that the Perkiomen Trail in Pennsylvania is a benefit to locals’ quality of life more than an economic driver, as it is used most frequently by local residents. However, disagreements with adjacent landowners over rights-of-way prior to trail construction linger, and may provide a lesson on the importance of carefully managing adjacent landowner relationships.
This study found that the proposed Catskill Mountain Rail Trail in New York is well-situated to provide new recreation opportunities in an area that is already a recreation destination (Catskill Mountain Park), and has a large nearby population base to draw from (New York City). These factors result in a substantial potential economic impact for the trail.
This study found that landowners adjacent to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail are frequent users of the trail, and most are satisfied with having the trail as a neighbor. Despite their general approval of the trail, most landowners did not think the trail would increase their property value or affect how quickly they could sell their home, suggesting that the main appeal of living near the trail comes from being able to use it.
This study found that the Pine Creek Rail Trail is a popular destination trail for cyclists in Pennsylvania, most of whom stay overnight. Although the estimates of use and economic impact are imperfect, they do show that the trail is responsible for bringing many people to the area who otherwise would not have come.
This study outlines a step-by-step process for estimating trail use, breaking the process down into four primary steps. The authors illustrate how to apply the method using a simple case study on the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail in Pennsylvania.
This study found that destination trailheads for non-local users along this long-distance trail system near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are associated with the greatest spending per person. This study demonstrates that the economic impact of a trail varies along its length, depending on the types of users the trail attracts and how well the local community can capture their business.