Ghost Town Trail 2009 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis

Uses studied: ,
Place: Ebensburg, Sailor Lick


This study found that although user spending on this long-distance Pennsylvania trail is modest, it draws a relatively large number of visitors to the small towns through which it runs. The roughly one in ten users who stay overnight spend substantially more than day visitors.


This study is an example of a survey of a rail-trail user analysis that follows closely the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail User Survey Workbook. In addition to the typical information on trail use and user demographics and expenditures, it provides detail on the history of the trail. This type of information would improve the readability of trail studies designed to generate public support.


The trail travels between Ebensburg and Black Lick, Pennsylvania, two rural towns with populations of 3,311 and 1,505, respectively, in 2013. Black Lick is roughly an hour from Pittsburgh.

Trail Type

The Ghost Town Trail is a multi-use rails-to-trails pathway traversing 36 miles in rural Pennsylvania. Along its route, the trail passes through land originally developed by mining companies. The Ghost Town Trail is surrounded by steep wooded hills and valleys, and is used primarily for bicycling (60%), as well as walking (27%) and some cross-country skiing.


Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) conducted this survey of trail users under a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. It was designed to monitor user characteristics and determine the economic impact of the Ghost Town Trail.


  • Annual trail visitors were estimated to be 75,600.
  • Eighty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they had purchased ‘‘hard goods’’ (bikes, bike accessories, clothing, etc.) within the past year in conjunction with their use of the trail, spending an average of $357.63 on those purchases.
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents said they had purchased ‘‘soft goods’’ (beverages, meals, snacks, etc.) while visiting the trail, spending an average of $13.62 per visit.
  • Twelve percent of respondents indicated they had stayed overnight in conjunction with their visit, spending an average of $78.04 per night for lodging.

Almost 64 percent of survey respondents said that they would pay a $10 annual user fee to help maintain the Ghost Town Trail.


The survey used a methodology previously tested on Pennsylvania trails and documented in RTC ’s Trail User Survey Workbook. Data on trail use were collected from four infrared counters positioned along the trail from April through October of 2009. Survey forms were available for trail users at eight trailhead locations along the Ghost Town Trail. Completed responses were mailed back to RTC ’s Northeast Regional Office. In all, 441 completed survey forms are included in this analysis, although this sampling approach precludes calculating a response rate.


Tomes, P. and C. Knoch. 2009. Ghost Town Trail 2009 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis. Rails to Trails Conservancy and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.