Property Values, Recreation Values, and Urban Greenways

Benefits studied: ,
Uses studied: ,
Place: Indianapolis


This study found that in Indianapolis property values are higher when homes are located near conservation areas without trails or near high-profile, destination trails, but are not any different when they are located near less-popular trails. Individual trail users place a positive value on being able to use trails, which is sufficiently high to justify the expense of trail construction and maintenance.


This study’s findings provide informative nuance to the argument that trails always increase property values. The effect of trails and greenways on property values is sensitive to how the researchers measure proximity. Other studies (see 2223, 26) find that close access to trails–either because they were adjacent or had easy access–results in higher property values, but trails in the broader neighborhood did not necessarily experience higher property values. This study measured proximity to trails as being within a half-mile of the trail. It would have found different effects if it only considered adjacent properties.


The study is based in Indianapolis, Indiana, population 828,841 in 2013, and the surrounding Marion County, which had a population of 912,242 in 2013.

Trail Type

The study addresses 14 “greenways,” which the authors define as “linear corridors of open space along rivers, streams, historic rail lines, or other natural or man-made features.” The greenways include some corridors with trails and others without trails, called “conservation corridors.” The study separately evaluates the Monon Trail, a heavily used, 10-mile rail-trail that runs from the city center to the neighboring county.


The study presents two different approaches to measuring trail benefits–from the perspective of the recreational trail user and from the perspective of adjoining property owners. The authors compare recreational benefits to the construction and maintenance costs of the trail to determine whether the trail benefits justify the public investment. The study was conducted by academic economists; the study did now acknowledge a specific funding source.


  • Homes near the Monon Trail, a popular rail-trail, sold for 11 percent more than the average home.
  • There was no difference in sale prices for homes near other trails.
  • Homes near conservation corridors sold for 26 percent more than the average home. These findings are consistent with other research (see 23) that found that trails surrounded by green space had the greatest price premium.
  • Monetized recreation benefits vary from $0.19 to $19.67 per trip, depending on how far the respondent lived from the trail. Across all users, recreation benefits total $3.1 million per year.
  • Using a 10-year time horizon, the authors estimate that benefits would be $22.6 million and construction and maintenance costs would be $3.9 million.


To estimate the value of proximity to greenways, the authors analyze house sale data, using the 9,348 residential property sales in Marion County in 1999 that were available from the Multiple Listing Service database. The authors use a statistical model to analyze sale prices for houses that are identical in terms of structural variables (e.g., house size, number of bathrooms) and neighborhood variables (e.g., median income), but differ in terms of proximity to greenways.

The authors use three different measures of greenways: proximity to the Monon Trail, the flagship recreational trail in the area; proximity to a greenway without trails; and proximity to a trail other than the Monon Trail. Proximity is defined as being within one-half mile of the trail. The difference in sale price between otherwise identical homes is the value of being close to a greenway. This approach is called a “hedonic price model.”

Recreational benefits for the Monon Trail are measured by calculating the expenses trail users incur to travel to and use the trail, as these expenses indicate that trail users value their trip by at least the cost of using the trail. This statistical approach is called a “travel cost model.” These data came from a previously-conducted survey (see 20) which intercepted 320 users along the Monon Trail, who were asked questions regarding their frequency and type of use, and how far they lived from the trail.


Lindsey, G., Man, J., Payton, S., and K. Dickson. 2004. “Property values, recreation values, and urban greenways.” Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 22 (3): 69–90.