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Economic benefits of trails and greenways
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Economic and other benefits of the Heritage Rail Trail

The trail has encouraged a variety of events, businesses, and tourism. Download the complete text of Heritage Rail Trail County Park User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis (pdf 192 kb)

By Gwen Loose, Development Coordinator, York County Parks Rail Trail Map of Pennsylvania

The people of York County, PA, are reaping the benefits of their work to build a 21-mile historic rail-with-trail known as the Heritage Rail Trail. The trail and the adjacent railroad tracks run through 11 municipalities, across bridges and through Howard Tunnel, the oldest continuously operational railroad tunnel in the United States. Three times per week a dinner train rolls down the tracks next to people on the trail. This idyllic space and vital community resource exists thanks in part to $1,056,800 in federal Transportation Enhancements funds.

The Heritage Rail Trail is connected to the 20-mile long Maryland Northern Central Rail Trail (NCR), providing training opportunities for long distance athletes, and space for community organizations to hold major events. March of Dimes "Walk-a-thons,"American Lung Association and York Cancer Center "Bike-a-thons,"and American Volkssport Association "March for Parks "have been held on the Heritage Rail Trail.

"Each of these events increases public awareness of health issues while popularizing the trail. The trail also provides economic benefits to the community."

Each of these events increases public awareness of health issues while popularizing the trail. The trail also provides economic benefits to the community. A survey of Heritage Rail Trail users conducted in 1999 by Carl R. Knoch, President of Interactive Marketing Solutions, quantified these benefits. Of the 480 users surveyed, 65 percent of the sample responded that their use of the trail had influenced a purchase(s)within the past year with the average purchase(s) totaling $337.14. The majority of these purchases were bicycles and bicycle supplies. Sixty percent of the sample responded that their recent visit to the trail had resulted in an average food purchase of $6.74 per person per visit.

This information,when considered in conjunction with the 365, 720 annual users recorded in 1999 by the adjacent NCR Trail indicates the tremendous economic impact this trail is expected to have on York County.

The impact has already been good for businesses. New businesses have opened along the trail since the start of construction in 1993,including two bed and breakfasts, two bicycle shops, a delicatessen, and a gift shop. Existing businesses along the trail report increased sales, extended hours, and newly hired staff. As trail use climbs, so does the demand for lodging, food, and athletic gear.

Based on the 1999 Trail Survey results, the York County Parks Department believes economic growth related to use of the trail will continue. Since the opening of the first section of the Heritage Rail Trail in 1996, a sense of community has developed around the trail. It has become a place to meet friends and a place to reconnect to oneself at a slower pace. The trail is also an economic benefit to York County and will continue to draw people to the region. TE funds helped make this trail and its important social and economic benefits to the York community possible.

For more information:

York County Parks
400 Mundis Race Road, York, PA 17402
(717) 840-7440 -- parks@york-county.org

Download the complete text of Heritage Rail Trail County Park User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis (pdf 192 kb)

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