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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.