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Economic Values of Greenways, Trails, and River Protection

Graphic: open house

Trails have the potential to create jobs, enhance property values, and expand local business

From the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program of the National Park Service

A summary of the findings is also available. This Resource Bookis intended to help local-level planners, park and recreation administrators, citizen activists, and non-profit groups understand and communicate the potential economic impacts of their proposed or existing corridor project. Rivers, trails, and greenway corridors (linear open spaces connecting recreational, cultural and natural areas) are traditionally recognized for their environmental protection, recreation values, and aesthetic appearance. These corridors also have the potential to create jobs, enhance property values, expand local businesses, attract new or relocating businesses, increase local tax revenues, decrease local government expenditures, and promote a local community.

Contents - 1995 Fourth Edition, Revised

Real Property Values (237K PDF file) - Presents evidence that greenways and trails may increase nearby property values. Demonstrates how an increase in property values can increase local tax revenues and help offset greenway acquisition costs.

Expenditures by Residents (239K PDF file) - Explains how spending by local residents on greenway-related activities can help support recreation-oriented businesses and employment, as well as other businesses which are patronized by greenway, river and trail users.

Commercial Uses (335K PDF file) - Describes the potential for concessions and special events within the greenway, which can boost local business as well as raise funds for the greenway itself.

Tourism (235K PDF file) - Describes how greenways, rivers and trails which attract visitors to a community support local businesses such as lodging, food establishments, and recreation-oriented services. Greenways may also help improve the overall appeal of a community to visitors and increase tourism.

Estimating the Effects of Spending (293K PDF file) - Explains direct and indirect effects of greenway-related expenditures and how to estimate economic impacts of your project.

Agency Expenditures (268K PDF file) - Explains how the agency responsible for managing a river, trail or greenway can support local businesses by purchasing supplies and services. Jobs created by the managing agency may also help increase local employment opportunities and benefit the local economy.

Corporate Relocation and Retention (218K PDF file) - Presents evidence that the quality of life of a community is an increasingly important factor for retaining and attracting corporations and businesses, and that greenways, rivers and trails can be important contributors to the quality of life. Corporations bring jobs to a community and help support businesses which provide services and products to corporations and their employees.

Public Cost Reduction (271K PDF file) - Explains how conservation of rivers, trails and greenways may help local governments and other public agencies to reduce long term costs for services such as roads and sewers; reduce costs resulting from injury to persons and property from hazards such as flooding; and avoid potential costly damages to natural resources such as water and fisheries.

Benefit Estimation (298K PDF file) - Describes how the recreational benefits of rivers, trails and greenways can be estimated in monetary values. Users can be surveyed to estimate the value of a visit to a greenway.

Appendices (165K PDF file)

  • A - Correcting for Inflation in Housing Prices A-2
  • B - Updating Consumer Good Values A-6
  • C - Survey Questions A-12

Purpose of this Resource Book

The aims of this Resource Book are to:

  • Encourage local professionals and citizens to use economic concepts as part of their effort to protect and promote greenways
  • Provide examples of how greenways and parks have benefited local and regional economies
  • Demonstrate how to determine the potential economic impacts of of river, trail, and greenway projects
  • Suggest other sources of information

Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails and Greenway Corridors is intended to be a compilation of the most recent information on this subject area. Many of the examples, and case studies, and information available focus on more traditional parks, rather than linear parks, trails, and river corridors. However, greenways and traditional parks often provide many of the same amenities. The growing interest in applying economic rationales to support greenway protection efforts will likely result in more economic analyses and studies.

How to Use the Resource Book

A good initial step is to skim the entire resource book to understand the range and scope of the economic concepts and strategies included. Before working through a specific section, you should prepare a detailed description of your greenway project, as well as the geographic area within which economic impacts will be determined. Both the project and geographic area should be mapped and described in a narrative. This will ensure you are working from a consistent information base.

It is also important to address the proposed scale and estimated use of the project because impacts vary for different greenways. Potential economic impacts will largely depend upon the amenities offered, the scale and magnitude of your project, accessibility, level of projected use, and intended users. The greater the size or amenities provided by the project and the heavier the potential use, the greater the potential economic impacts are likely to be. If your goal is to maximize economic impacts, it is important that you keep these factors in mind throughout the planning stages of your project.

Once the project and geographic area are clearly identified and you have reviewed the sections, you should select one or more methods of analysis and work through each applicable section. We recommend you select sections which address primary concerns to your community and decisionmakers. After you select the appropriate section(s), you should read them carefully. You are encouraged to use references, handbooks, textbooks, or training which may help in understanding the concepts and the strategies. Once again, we remind you that detailed economic studies requiring the services of a trained economist may also be warranted. If an economic issue is likely to be the key factor in the decisionmaker's evaluation of a project, we recommend a trained econAugust 17, 2008onsultant to evaluate or perform the appropriate analyses.

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