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Study evaluates impacts adjacent to Michigan rail
From "Kent County Adjacent Businesses and Residential
Landowners' Attitudes Towards and Use of the Fred Meijer White Pine
Trail State Park in Michigan." Download
complete study (pdf 1 MB).
Prepared by: Kristen Steger, Christine Vogt, Ph.D. and Charles Nelson,
Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation
and Resource Studies, Michigan State University, 2000
The White Pine State Park Trail (WPT) is a 92-mile rail-trail from
White Cap Stadium in Comstock Park north to Cadillac. From its southern
terminus for the first 13 miles north to Russell Road in northern Kent
County, the WPT is paved and open only to non-motorized uses, except
horseback riding. North of Russell Road to Cadillac, the WPT is gravel
and open to non-motorized uses (including equestrian) as well as winter
Currently, the trail is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) with assistance from the non-profit Friends of the White
Pine Trail. There are no trail user fees, except those for snowmobile
trail permits. Monies for acquisition and development came from the
Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Michigan Department of
Transportation (MDOT), and operations funding from Michigan State Park
dedicated funds and snowmobile permits and gasoline sales taxes.
| "Only 2% of businesses and 1%
of residents believe the trail has a negative influence on the community."
The purpose of studying adjacent businesses and residents of the Fred
Meijer White Pine Trail State Park (hereafter WPT) was to evaluate the
knowledge, usage, support, influence and opinions of the rail-trail
by those who live and work next to the trail on a daily basis.
All adjacent business and resident owners of the WPT in Kent County
were initially mailed a questionnaire on July 11, 2006. The list of
businesses and residents was obtained from the county tax assessor's
office in June 2006. Businesses were mailed a three-page questionnaire
and residents a seven-page questionnaire. Businesses and residents also
received a letter and business reply envelope with a survey. Reminder
postcards, sent two weeks after the initial mailing, and a second mailing
of the survey sent on August 7, 2006 were used to encourage participation
Forty-eight of the 92 businesses (52.2%) and 187 of the 288 residential
landowners (64.9%) completed the questionnaire.
Important findings include:
- The most common type of business found adjacent to the WPT was consumer
services or retail (48%). Businesses employed up to 130 full-time
employees and 20 part-time employees. Over two-thirds of the businesses
state their building/structure was adjacent or right next to the trail.
Businesses were an average of 50 yards away from the rail-trail and
have been at their location for an average of 18 years.
- Resident homes/structures were on average 60 yards away from the
rail-trail and were predominantly residential homes. On average residents
have lived in their home for 13 years and most (55%) have a full view
of the trail in the summer. Three out of five residents purchased
their home before the trail was built and are adjacent or right next
to the trail (96%). Most households have two adults (58%) but sixty-four
percent have no children while thirty-six percent have one or more
children. Of the respondents who gave pre-tax income information thirty-four
percent earned $60,000 or more while thirty-one percent earned less
than $60,000, even though fifty-five percent of respondents were employed
full-time and fifty-three percent had some college or a college diploma.
- Businesses reported they were less informed about the design and
construction of the rail-trail compared to residents. Twenty-four
percent of businesses considered themselves fully or moderately informed
compared to thirty percent of residents. There was more involvement
in planning meetings for the WPT by residents compared to businesses.
Businesses and residents were equally involved in the planning, development
and maintenance of the rail-trail, as well as being current members
of the Friends of the White Pine Trail group.
- Fifty-six percent of businesses and 51% of residents were supportive
of the idea of the rail-trail before it was built. Slightly more than
a third of businesses and adjacent residents were supportive during
planning and construction, however businesses and residents were more
likely to have a neutral opinion during planning. Today with the trail
in operation for a decade, 67% of adjacent businesses and 76% of adjacent
residents are in support of the trail with 9% of businesses opposed
to the trail and 7% of the adjacent residents.
- Fifty-four percent of businesses had one or more employees who used
the WPT before, during breaks or after work for walking, biking, running,
snowmobiling or general recreation. Eighty-five percent of residential
respondents indicated that at least one person in their household
uses the White Pine Trail. Most respondents used the trail for exercise,
fun and enjoyment, and to be outside. More than half of the households
adjacent to the trail had at least one person using the rail-trail
daily or weekly.
- Eight in ten adjacent businesses and residents believe the WPT has
a positive influence on the community and Kent County as a whole,
while only 2% of businesses and 1% of residents believe the trail
has a negative influence on the community and Kent County.
- Forty-seven percent of businesses believe the trail is a positive
influence on their employees and two-thirds of residents feel it is
a positive influence on their household. Conversely, 2% of businesses
believe the trail is a negative influence on their employees and 7%
of residents believe the trail is a negative influence on their household.
- Sixty-nine percent of residents rated the removal of trash from
containers was good or very good. Similarly, 75% indicated lack of
litter along the trail and 70% indicated that the removal of trash
from litter barrels was good or very good.
- Adjacent residents were less satisfied with other attributes. Less
than half (45%) rated their sense of safety and security as good or
very good and 50% rated their privacy as good or very good.
- The majority of residents (72%) stated that the WPT has increased
recreation opportunities, 68% health and fitness, 68% their personal
enjoyment and 65% their community pride.
- Major management challenges for the WPT due to a lack of operations
funding are precipitated by the lack of revenue to Michigan State
Parks from non-motorized trail users and the elimination of general
fund appropriations by the legislature to Michigan State Parks.
Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies,
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1222 - www.carrs.msu.edu/trails
Funding provided by: Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan
Agricultural Experiment Station and MSU Extension
complete study (pdf 1 MB)