In Helena, Montana, an 80-mile hiking and mountain biking trail system attracts more than 63,000 trail users during the summer. Seven in 10 users are residents, but visitors who use the trail system account for $4 million in spending, support 60 jobs, and generate $185,000 in state and local taxes.
West of Atlanta, Georgia, the Silver Comet Trail plans to double its 61 miles. This is expected to bring more than 500,000 new tourist visits and $30 million in new spending to the area, while also generating substantial new tax revenues for the state through taxes on sales, income, and newly developed residential properties near the trail.
One of the primary concerns about data from GPS tracking apps is that the users tend to be more frequent recreators or commuters and therefore do not accurately represent the actual population. This paper shows that there is a strong correlation between the reported share of people in a neighborhood commuting by active transportation between the American Community Survey (a nationally representative survey) and Strava (a GPS tracking app).
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.
Across Idaho, the counties with the most snowmobile use and associated spending on trips are the counties with the best access to snowmobile trails. Spending on equipment, which is highly lucrative, happens mostly in population centers and not in the destination communities.
Across the U.S., racial and ethnic minorities visit national forests much less than white counterparts from neighboring counties. This disparity is the most pronounced in areas with the highest share of minorities living nearby, suggesting a significant need for creative outreach efforts.
This study in Minneapolis, Minnesota, finds that commuting rates by bicycle increased substantially between 2000 and 2010 once 10 miles of paved paths separated from roadways were created. Using careful statistical methods, they show that neighborhoods closest to the new paths and with the most commuting routes crossing the paths had the greatest increases in bike commuting rates.
In northwest Arkansas, a substantial investment in paved and unpaved trails has contributed substantially to the region’s well-being (measured in improved health) and economic performance (measured in visitor spending and employee retention). Evidenced by residents’ interest in living close to trails and willingness to pay more for homes near trails, cycling is an essential part of life in this region.
Off-highway vehicle users in Idaho take about 500,000 trips annually to counties away from their home towns and spend $186 million during these trips. The rural counties near population centers get the most visits, but spending on trips and equipment remains mostly in the larger cities.
An extensive motorized trail system in rural southwest Virginia has brought substantial new spending to the community, helping to diversify the area’s traditionally coal-based economy. The estimated economic impact is less than the predicted impacts before the system was built, but the impacts nonetheless exceed state and local investments.
Updated: Headwaters Economics produced two interactive maps to show the range of commercial activities on National Forests at the Forest, state and forest region levels.
High worker productivity occurs across diverse counties and sectors but is not always connected with population growth and opportunity.
Study on the economic impacts of redesignating Bandelier National Monument as a National Park with case studies of other Monuments converted to National Parks.
New fiscal and policy assessments help local leaders understand their exposure to declining revenue and policy barriers during a coal transition.
Investing in outdoor recreation is one of several strategies that can help rural communities thrive in a changing economy.
Our latest research, Newsletter: February 2019, contains research on neighborhoods at risk from climate change, how recreation counties outperform their peers economically, detailed socioeconomic profiles for counties near BLM units, and a blog on land use planning being more effective than logging to reduce wildfire disasters. Subscribe to our newsletter.
Updated: For communities land use planning is more effective than logging on federal lands to reduce future wildfire disasters.
Recreation counties, especially in non-metro places, draw new residents and have higher incomes and faster earnings growth than places without recreation.
Our latest research, Newsletter: December 2018, contains research on building wildfire-resistant homes, a trails toolkit, helping communities reduce wildfire risk through land use planning, and Montana’s outdoor recreation economy. Subscribe to our newsletter.
Communities and local leaders can utilize this trails toolkit to better understand whether and how trails can accomplish local goals, along with the cost and benefits of proposed projects.