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 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 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 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 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.