The Economic Impact of the Proposed Chattahoochee Valley Blueway Project

How to cite this study

Blair, B.F. 2012. The economic impact of the proposed Chattahoochee Valley Blueway project. Columbus, GA: Butler Center for Business and Economic Research, Columbus State University.


This study estimated the economic impacts of the proposed Chattahoochee Valley Blueway paddling trail that flows through parts of Georgia and Alabama. Using an online survey, the author estimated expenditures and potential visitors over four years, assuming marketing will increase the customer base to include counties within a two-hour drive after two years, counties within a four-hour drive after three years, and counties within a six-hour drive after four years. The study concluded that the project will increase total economic output in the eight-county region by $1.7 million in the first year, and increase to more than $3.2 million by the fourth year.


This study is relevant to researchers interested in measuring the economic impact generated by water trails. The data collected from surveys can inform policymakers and planners of the most effective areas to construct access points to support outdoor recreationists and increase outdoor recreational tourism. Through the survey, kayaking and canoeing as well as camping and hiking were found to be popular activities, indicating that building campgrounds near launch points could encourage multiple-activity recreation. 

The author also examined the economic impact that could arise from paddling festivals and special events using the Blueway as a theme. The author noted that results are most likely conservative estimates of the true impacts of the creation of the Blueway.


This study is located on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia and Alabama. The author estimated that eight counties closest to the Blueway will be most affected, but that within four years, the customer base will expand to include counties that are up to a six-hour drive away.

Trail Type

The Blueway is a proposed 50-mile paddling trail on the Chattahoochee River. The project includes 8-10 canoe/kayak launch locations that will each be surrounded by green spaces and areas for camping and fishing along the river. These sites will provide continuous access to the river for recreational paddling, which will encourage tourism and economic activity.


The purpose of this study is to provide an estimate of the economic impact that the region would experience as a result of the creation of the proposed Blueway. The study was prepared for The Trust for Public Land.


  • In the survey, 75% of respondents were male, 90% were white, 76% had at least a college education, and 60% of households reported incomes less than $75,000. The most popular activity was kayaking (81% of participants), then camping (68%), hiking (67%), canoeing (53%), and rafting (23%). 
  • After the customer base has been fully developed to include the counties that are 6 hours away (4 years after Blueway is developed), it is predicted that 18,000 paddling trips will occur on Blueway each year. 
  • Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, economic activity in the region is expected to increase by more than $1.7 million in the first year, more than$2.7 million in year 2, and more than $3.1 million in the third year. The author predicted an annually recurring impact of almost $3.3 million once the marketing efforts take full effect in year 4.
  • In the region, the total increase in personal income generated by the region will be nearly $620,000 in year one, nearly $1 million in year two, $1.1 million in year three, and nearly $1.2 million in year four. 
  • The author estimated that the $1.34 million spent on Blueway construction will directly support 9.5 jobs in the region. An additional 2.5 workers will be employed as a result of the indirect economic effects, and increased local income and employment resulting from the construction activities will support an additional 3.0 jobs. In total, construction expenditures are predicted to support a short-term increase of almost 15 jobs in the region.


Data was collected using an online survey flier distributed at boat ramps and outdoor retailers along the proposed Blueway route within the 8-county area and also online through newsletters by paddling clubs and river conservation organizations. A total of 122 respondents provided either partial or complete data. The survey included questions on demographic information, activity type, and expenditure patterns during an average paddlesport outing. To estimate the total potential demand for paddling trips, expenditure profiles for six different age groups were created using the survey data, with high, medium, and low per-trip estimates to provide a range. The potential number of trips was estimated by using the total population within each age group and paddle sport participation percentages from previous studies. Combining this data, the author estimated the potential demand for paddling trips in the proposed area each year. 

The authors assume that Blueway will capture only a portion of the entire paddling market, and that this share will decrease as the distance from Blueway increases. IMPLAN was used to develop a descriptive input-output model and a predictive model to estimate direct, indirect, and induced effects.

Added to library on November 7, 2023