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 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.
This study found that cycling and pedestrian activities in Vermont generate substantial state-wide economic impact through the construction and maintenance of trails, businesses serving cyclists and pedestrians, and events. Although not quantified in this study, trails also provide benefits to residents through avoided transportation costs for consumers (e.g., gasoline and vehicle maintenance), avoided transportation costs for the public (e.g., reduced maintenance costs due to fewer vehicle trips), and increases in real estate values near trails.
This study found that bicycling tourism in Maine is associated with modest spending, largely because nearly all bicycle tourists in the state are day users. Developing long-distance rail-trails and multi-day self-guided tour routes could help increase the number of cycling tourists and increase the economic impact from cycling, particularly in rural communities.
This study found that snowmobilers in New Hampshire spend $203 million per year in the state, and spend more per day than other travelers. However, winter sports like alpine and Nordic skiing have a greater proportion of spending from out-of-state residents, generating greater economic impact state-wide.
This study found that snowmobilers in Maine generate large annual expenditures, and increased expenditures observed over a two-year period are due largely to a dramatic increase in non-resident snowmobilers. This growth is attributed to more active state- and local-level promotion as well as a good snow year in Maine relative to other regions.
This study found that expanding an existing trail system with broad regional draw in Barre, Vermont could significantly increase visitor use and spending. Using a range of projected growth rates, the authors predict that the local economy could see relatively small but meaningful gains in new spending and employment.
This study found that extending a rail-trail from the outskirts of Fall River, Massachusetts into the city center is likely to generate a range of benefits for the community, including increased physical activity, fewer pedestrian and cyclist crashes with motor vehicles, increased business activity and improved working environment, and less air pollution. This study is an example of a small city’s Health Impact Assessment, a single document that can be used by trail planners and advocates to justify the investment of public funds.
This study found that residents who live closer to rail-trails in Arlington, Massachusetts got an hour more exercise for transportation purposes each week. Proximity to the trails had no effect on the amount of exercise for recreation, suggesting the neighborhood trails in this community are mainly used for transportation purposes.