Omaha Recreational Trails: Their Effect on Property Values and Public Safety
This study found that, according to the residents closest to the trails, the Omaha trail system has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on neighborhoods’ quality of life. The positive effects are not constant across all trails and neighborhoods, though, and neighborhoods that saw the greatest benefit were constructed concurrently with the trails.
The methods and findings from this study would be of interest in communities concerned about the impacts of trails on neighboring property owners. The study design of separately evaluating trail segments and neighborhoods to be representative of a city revealed helpful insights in this study, and would be a useful addition to similar studies of neighborhood impacts. The author’s distinction between residents who moved to the neighborhood before or after trail construction allowed for an informative distinction between responses.
The trails studied are a part of a system around Omaha, Nebraska. The population of Omaha was 422,499 in 2013.
The trail studied is a system of approximately 67 miles of paved multi-use recreational trails. Another 35 miles of trails were scheduled for completion by 2009.
As the trail system has become established and continued to expand, trail planning has become a standard component of Omaha’s urban and suburban parks master planning. As a part of this planning, city employees want information to target outreach to residents near proposed future trails, focusing on three main areas of interest: property values, public safety, and trail use. The study was partially funded by a Challenge Cost Share Grant through the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program.
Over three-quarters of nearby residents viewed the trails as improving their neighborhood quality of life. Forty-two percent of respondents expected their proximity to the trail would increase their home sale price and 65 percent thought the trail would make their home easier to sell. Two-thirds of respondents who purchased their home after the trail was built stated that the trail influenced the decision to purchase their home.
However, these findings are not uniform across all trails. Residents were most positive about a trail’s effect on quality of life when their neighborhood was developed concurrently with trails. This timing likely allowed people most likely to enjoy living close to a trail to purchase these homes.
The trail component that received the most negative response was the skateboard park that was close to several homes. The authors point out that because this park had a much greater impact than other trails, the location of this type of facility should be carefully considered.
The authors chose three trail segments to represent a range of old and new housing, older and newer trails, and trails that are connected to the rest of the system or trails that stand alone. This research focused on residents who live in densely populated areas within a city block of these trail segments.
Respondents were contacted via mail and phone. The authors contacted 149 households, with a 61 percent overall response rate.
Greer, D. 2000. Omaha Recreational Trails: Their Effect on Property Values and Public Safety. University of Nebraska at Omaha, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.