Catskill Mountain Rail Trail Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis
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.
This study would be of interest to communities developing rail trails, both for its methods and its findings. The authors use careful, transparent methods to calculate expected users per mile, and the methods could be applied to estimate use on other proposed trails. The findings are relevant for other communities considering developing a rail-trail near a large population center that could generate substantial non-local user days and subsequent economic impacts.
The trail would run west from Kingston, New York (population 23,823 in 2013) in Ulster County to the rural Ulster/Delaware County border. Kingston is approximately two hours north of New York City.
The Catskill Mountain Rail Trail (CMRT) is a proposed 32 to 38-mile multi-use trail comprised of three distinct sections, with different characteristics.
- The urban section will run through the City of Kingston, providing an alternative transportation and recreation route for residents.
- The Ashokan Reservoir section will run approximately 10 miles along the northern edge of the Ashokan Reservoir, with views of the Catskill Mountains and the reservoir at the eastern and western ends of the trail section.
- The rural section will be more of a mountain trail, and run approximately 13 miles. It will connect areas north of Phoenicia to the Belleayre Ski Resort at the Delaware County border.
The purpose of this report is to project the likely economic and fiscal benefits of the CMRT on Ulster County and New York State. The report estimates the impact on sales, jobs, and wages as well as tax revenue. The study was commissioned by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, likely to help to justify the investment of public funds.
The authors estimate that 140,000 people would use the CMRT annually, 23% (32,000) of whom would come from places other than Ulster County. They expect the average visitor from outside the county would spend $64.37 per day. Out-of-state visitors are expected to spend $74.98 per person per day.
The study estimates that the following economic impacts for Ulster County would result from trail users from outside the county: $3.1 million in annual sales, 44 annual jobs, and $1.2 million in annual earnings. For context, this represents 0.4 percent of the employed population in Kingston and 0.3 percent of annual labor earnings.
Camoin Associates reviewed and compiled data from a wide variety of sources, including regional trail use studies, visitor spending surveys, and local and regional visitor estimates to similar trails and recreation areas.
Camoin Associates projected the number of users by first establishing a baseline using results from use estimates of similar trails in the region to determine average use per mile (2,876). They assumed visitation would increase from this baseline as the trail would encourage five percent of the existing 400,000 annual recreational visitors in the Catskill Mountains to extend their stay in the area. Finally, they assumed events such as marathons, triathlons, and fundraising runs or bike rides through the active local running and cycling clubs could bring another 17,500 users per year.
The authors estimated the percent of users who would come from outside of the County based on a survey conducted on a nearby pedestrian bridge. Using information gathered from a previous visitor spending survey in the area, Camoin Associates determined average visitation spending of a typical non-County and non-State CMRT user.
The authors then used an input-output model provided by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc (EMSI) to estimate the economic impact of new local spending associated with the trail, both through direct impacts and indirect spillovers.
Camion Associates. 2013. Catskill Mountain Rail Trail Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis. Presented at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, June 17, 2013.