The Rails to Trails Conservancy, wrote in the “Economic Benefits of Trails and Greenways,” that trails are like a magnificent gem on display, attracting visitors from near and far. “Many communities realize the economic potential of these highly desirable recreation destinations. Trails and greenways bring growth in construction and maintenance as well as tourism-related opportunities like river rafting tours, bike rentals, restaurants and lodging. Greenways can encourage new residents to settle in an area. Young people and families are attracted to places that provide opportunities for easy access to outdoor recreation. Greenway trails provide such accessibility since they connect population centers to parks and other natural amenities.
The economic benefits of trail development are well documented. Numerous studies and surveys have concluded that trail development can be a component of a community’s economic development program.
A National Park Service study revealed that the economic impact of a trail involves a combination of newly created trail-related jobs and the expansion of existing businesses related to travel, equipment, clothes, food, souvenirs and maps. That is only the beginning of the importance these amenities can have for a community’s economy. Trails and greenways can increase perceived quality of life in a community, and consequently attract new businesses.”
“According to a 1998 study, the direct economic impact of the Great Allegheny Passage exceeded $14 million a year—even though the trail was only half-finished at that time. In Confluence,
Referring to the Greater
In an article written by Christopher Swope about “
“There’s several billion dollars in new development directly connected to those trails.” Murphy says. “It’s not only because of the trails, but the trails add additional value.” “To support his vision for greenspace along the city’s three rivers, Murphy took a big risk his first year in office. He put up $9 million in city money to buy more than 130 acres of former steel mill land. That and other land purchases ensured that the city, not private developers, would control the new waterfront’s destiny.” “I always thought that
“As the city began to develop the land, Murphy vigorously fought to preserve access for public trails along the riverfront. This sometimes put the mayor in awkward situations, such as the time when the
“Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, testifying at a Congressional hearing, credited trail construction for contributing significantly to a dramatic downtown revitalization. Miles of trails now connect millions of dollars of economic development, including new stadiums, housing, office space, and riverfront parks.”
In the early ninety’s a study of the Oil Creek Bike Trail (Penn State University, 1992) in
The Economic Impact of Ghost Town Trail in the Indiana and Cambria Counties Region (completed in October 1996), was studied and the survey concluded that The total economic impact, when multiplied by the estimated 66,253 people that used the trail during 1996, was approximately $362,000 -- $221,000 from residents expenditures and $140,000 from nonresidents’ expenditures.
Shortly after visiting the Youghiogheny River Trail, in southwestern
The 1999 Heritage Rail Trail,
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), tourism is the second largest industry in the Commonwealth and nearly one-fifth of
The Allegheny Trail
An article written by Gene Bisbee was entitled “Build It and They Will Come and Spend; The Pennsylvania's Pine Creek Rail Trail” The trail is located in northern Pennsylvania and is called the Pine Creek Rail Trail which meanders 62 miles along a river that passes through a valley aptly called the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The trail was voted by USA Today as one of the "10 great places to take a bike tour." “The Rails to Trails Conservancy conducted The Pine Creek Rail Trail survey in 2006 which proves the adage heard in the 1986 movie Field of Dreams: "Build it and they will come." “The survey found that not only do they come, but also they contribute to the local economies. The Pine Creek survey determined that visitors spend from $5 million to $7 million a year, most of which is spent in the local communities along the trail. While some of the spending for "hard goods" such as bicycles went to businesses around the state, local spending for food and snacks totaled $2.5 million to $3.6 million and for lodging tallied between $1.3 million to $1.9 million. The trail's impact on the economy has been great. 82% of the respondents said they had purchased bikes, accessories or clothing for an average expenditure of $354. Further, 86% reported they spent money on such "soft goods" as lunches, ice cream, drinks to the tune of an average $30 per trip. Another boon to the local economy, 57% said they spent at least one night in the area. On average, the overnighters spend just over 3 nights per visit and spend $69 per night. Owners of general stores, restaurants and hotels in towns along the route were interviewed, and they all agreed that business had picked up since the trail opened, and many had added new products and more employees.” To cater to the needs of recreational users, new service businesses, such as bike shops, canoe & kayak rentals, restaurants, campsites, and bed and breakfasts often spring up around recreational greenways. These new businesses bring new jobs and additional tax dollars to the host municipalities.”
These studies and surveys strongly suggests that, leaving aside all the other benefits of Scenic Trails & Greenways as reported in the “Benefits of Greenways: A Pennsylvania Study”, that recreation trails are a strong resource that can assist in positive economic change. The trails economic benefits and the president’s stimulus package should encourage Beaver and Allegheny County leaders and residents to continue what President Teddy Roosevelt started when he set aside nearly 230 million acres of land as parks and nature preserves. Roosevelt believed that each generation has a duty to preserve our most beautiful places and incredible vistas for the generations that follow.
Beaver & Allegheny County can now join together and support new trail development by beginning to spread the crushed limestone or asphalt along the ameliorating Ohio River, one of the most economically significant rivers in the world.
Carol M. Browner, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency in a speech delivered to the Rails to Trails Conference in Pittsburgh, PA on June 25, 1999 stated: “As Teddy Roosevelt and his generation recognized their duty to save our most beautiful places -- our greatest places - so must we recognize our duty to grow different, to grow smart. To recreate that which made this country so great -- a sense of community -- we need to create those shared places, be they trails, local parks, or perhaps even a simple sidewalk. Shared places where we can come to know our neighbors as more than someone we simply pass in the car -- windows rolled up -- a small wave the extent of our communication."
"I thank all of you for what you do and the difference you make. Something is happening in America -- city-by-city, town by town, neighborhood by neighborhood. Communities are being reborn. And that is a great thing, not just for us, but our children and our children's children."
"I am fortunate to live in such a place -- to raise my son in such a place -- to know the name of every child on my block and how they are doing in school. This afternoon, I am sure all of the parents will gather together on the sidewalk and review those end-of-the-year report cards the kids will be bringing home today."
"Some would say I live in the city. I would say I live in a neighborhood -- a community -- and what a wonderful place it is. “
Authored by Dr. Vincent Troia, January 2009.