An Economic and Impact Analysis of the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail

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Place: Anniston, Oxford

Overview

This survey found that avid mountain bikers are projected to have high daily spending and use the trails frequently on the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail in Alabama. The new trail system is likely to be popular with locals and attract some outside spending that could have significant effects on retail and hospitality businesses that cater to this group.

Relevance

This study would be helpful for communities developing trails targeting avid mountain bikers. It contains information about daily spending and use patterns. However, these data should not be the sole source of information because the survey instrument does not clearly describe the trail system (e.g., types of trails, number of trails, etc.), uses data from other surveys with very different types of trails such as rail-trails, or particularly unique trails such as Slickrock, and targets avid cyclists. These factors result in a likely overestimate of use.

Location

This study was conducted in the Anniston-Oxford area, a Metropolitan Statistical Area in Calhoun County, Alabama approximately an hour from Birmingham, Alabama. The county’s population in 2012 was 118,000; Anniston’s and Oxford’s populations were 23,000 and 21,000, respectively.

Trail Type

The Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail is a new system of trails for mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners (although the study focus appears to be mountain bikers) on a 4,000 acre state-owned tract of land. Sixty miles of trails have been designed with the goal of becoming a world-class destination, and will be phased-in between 2012 and 2017. As of the 2012 study, approximately 11 miles of trails had been completed.

Purpose

This analysis projects the likely economic impacts to the communities surrounding the recently-opened Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail in the Anniston-Oxford area of Calhoun County, Alabama. The Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Jacksonville State University conducted the study for the Calhoun County Community Development Corporation.

Findings

  • The authors assume 90 percent of users will be local and 10 percent of users will be non-local, based on a review of other trails studies.
  • Based on related trail use studies, the authors project use of the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail will be 5,000-30,000 visits per mile, per year, for the existing 11 miles of trail currently completed. This translates to 50,000-150,000 total bicycle users per year. Because the other trails are rails to trails-type multi-use paths with a much broader appeal, or world-renowned destinations (Slickrock), this estimate may be high.
  • Based on survey responses, local users are expected to spend an average of $60.87 per day and non-local users are expected to spend an average of $138.49 per day. These values are higher than many other trail use studies, and likely reflect that respondents are very avid cyclists and are therefore willing to spend more per day, and have relatively high incomes (39% earned over $100,000 per year).
  • The authors expect that there is a significant difference between the demand for bicycle-related merchandise and the number of local retailers to provide these goods, creating an opportunity for business development supporting the trails.
  • The authors estimate a range of economic impacts based on the range of likely trail users, local and non-local. Because the increase in use is likely an over-estimate, we report the most conservative estimates: $1.8 million in new spending.
  • The economic impact from the new trail system is likely to be relatively small overall, but could be significant for restaurants, accommodations, and retail stores who cater to these users.

Methods

The authors administered an online survey to members of the International Mountain Bike Association’s southern region division, the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association. They received and analyzed a total of 839 responses from 10,850 people to whom a survey link was sent (7.7% response rate).

For purposes of expenditures per day, the following selected trails were analyzed for an average of local and non-local expenditures (where data was available): Jackson Hole, Virginia Creeper, and Allegheny Gap. Users per mile were estimated using five rail-trails and Slickrock mountain bike trail in Moab.

Citation

Boozer, B. 2012. An Economic and Impact Analysis of the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail. Jacksonville State University, Center for Economic Development; Calhoun County Community Development Corporation.