Potential Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation in the Barre Town Forest, Vermont

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Place: Barre

Overview

This study found that expanding an existing trail system with broad regional draw in Barre, Vermont could significantly increase visitor use and spending. Using a range of projected growth rates, the authors predict that the local economy could see relatively small but meaningful gains in new spending and employment.

Relevance

The approach used here would be useful for those interested in estimating the potential impact of expanding an existing trail system. The methods are transparent and credible.

Location

The town of Barre, Vermont is a rural town in north central Vermont, with a population of 9,001 in 2013. It is less than 10 miles from the state capital, Montpelier (population 7,815 in 2013).

Trail Type

This study evaluated 20 miles of planned mountain biking and cross-country skiing trails in the proposed Barre Town Forest (BTF), which would link to a larger, 70-mile system known as the Millstone Trail System (MTS). The existing MTS is a recreational destination that draws visitors into the state from the northeast U.S. and Canada. The MTS was named among the best in New England by the Boston Globe in 2009, and attracts a large percentage of non-local visitors.  At the time of this study, the proposed BTF was envisioned to protect 370 acres of a former quarry site in rural Vermont for public use.

Purpose

The purpose of the study was to estimate the potential local and regional economic value of protecting 370 acres of forest in Barre, Vermont. The two objectives of the study were analyzing the potential impacts of increased recreational and tourist visits to the MTS, as well as the potential impacts on the regional economy. Commissioned by The Trust for Public Land, researchers projected the impacts that increased visitation and spending would have on local employment and economic growth.

Findings

The researchers projected economic impact based on current use of the Millstone Trail System, assuming that extending the trail system would increase user days. They used two growth rates:  10 percent per year and 29.5 percent per year. The projections assuming the 10 percent growth rate follow:

  • 20 new jobs created in the region in 2015, which is 0.4 percent of Barre’s employed population. Thirteen of these jobs would go to the restaurant and lodging sectors.
  • $269,084 new income, which is 0.1 percent of Barre’s current labor earnings
  • $629,624 in new visitor spending by 2015 (additional to total annual spending in 2011)
  • $42,414 in new state sales tax revenue in 2015

Methods

The study projected the economic and fiscal impacts of increased recreational visitation to the potential BTF, using the comparable Kingdom Trail System (KTS) in East Burke, Vermont to assess and build projections for the BTF.  Researchers conducted interviews with local experts to collect background information to affirm the comparability of the BTF and KTS.

The researchers used studies completed on the economic impact of visitors to the KTS, current rates of visitation to the trails located in the potential BTF, and literature establishing the economic value of recreational activities. Next, they input data into the Money Generation Model (an Excel-based calculator that analyzes the economic impacts of national parks) to project the local economic impacts of increased recreational visitation to the BTF for 2015 and 2020.

Citation

Posner, S. and M. Ceroni. 2011. Potential Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation in the Barre Town Forest, Vermont. Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, University of Vermont. Funded by The Trust for Public Land.