Trails Make Economic Sense

The benefits of expanding and improving the outdoor recreation economy are clear and compelling.


When visitors participate in outdoor recreation, they spend their hard-earned money on gear, equipment, food, lodging and more, and contribute $65.3 billion in annual tax revenue to federal coffers and untold billions to state and local community funding streams. Much of America’s recreation infrastructure on federally managed lands and waters is also associated with revenue streams — fishing and hunting licenses; entrance and activity fees; campground, slip and boat launch fees; recreation permits and registration fees; and excise and fuel taxes.

Takeaways on how trails boost the economy:

  • A 2018 study of Helena, Montana’s trail impact revealed a $4.3 million annual impact for the town of 31,000 residents. This is just one example out of hundreds from across the nation of trails playing a vital role in the economy.
  • Outdoor recreation now outpaces the oil and gas industry in economic impact. The outdoor recreation industry is built on trails, making trails an important economic driver.
  • Properties near trails increase in value.
  • Trails both drive tourism, and make communities a more desirable place to live.
  • Trails boost physical activity, creating measurable and substantial savings in healthcare costs (if you want to link to the physical health section here you can with like, a “see trails and health” or something).
  • Trails create jobs. Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects create 8–12 jobs per $1 million of spending. Road infrastructure projects create 7 jobs per $1 million of expenditures (Garrett-Peltier, 2011).

Recommended Resources on the Economic Benefits of Trails

Evidence of Many Varieties of Economic Benefits Linked to Trails

Trails and greenways impact our economy through tourism, events, urban redevelopment, community improvement, property values, health care costs, jobs and investment, and general consumer spending.

FAQ: Our roads are in bad shape... why spend money on trails?

There is a huge amount of evidence that trails add value to properties and bring in significant increases in tourism spending, that roads just do not have.

webinar: Leveraging People and Places: Trails as Economic Development

This webinar will discuss urban trails and what cities are doing to provide economic development opportunities for the properties that lie along former industrial corridors.

From the Resource Library

Browse all Economic Studies, documents and articles in the resource library.

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