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A Survey of Nova Scotia Hiking Trail Users
The objective of this study was to generate information
to guide trail development policies and funding decisions in Nova Scotia
Download complete 216-page Survey Report (pdf 483 kb)
Prepared for: Nova Scotia Department of Economic Development & Tourism,
Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission, and Human Resource Development
Despite the attention currently being devoted to trail development
by various levels of government and community groups, very little information
on Nova Scotia trail users or the resulting economic impacts currently
exists. The overall objective of this study, which was sponsored by
the Nova Scotia Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the
Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission and Human Resource Development
Canada, was to generate information that will guide trial development
policies and funding decisions in Nova Scotia over the next few years.
It was also geared to enable community development associations to form
realistic expectations for the economic benefits of trail development.
In particular, this study:
- Quantified trail usage for the study trails by user type (e.g.,
- Profiled trail uses and their expenditure patterns;
- Assessed the economic impact of trail user expenditure patterns
for groups such as tourists and non-residents using survey data and
the Nova Scotia Tourism Economic Impact Model; and,
- Identified the most cost-effective opportunities for trail development
and trail enhancement initiatives.
Between July 18, 1998 and October 12, 1998, 556 in-person interviews
were conducted with trail users on 9 different trails in Nova Scotia.
The study trails included: Dartmouth Urban Trail, Lunenburg Back Harbour
Trail, Cape Split Trail, Blomidon Provincial Park Trail, Middlehead
Trail, Bog Trail, Keji Seaside Adjunct Trail, Cape Chignecto Provincial
Park Trail, and Tiverton Balancing Rock Trail. For the purposes of data
analysis, these trails were divided into three different trail types
that included tourist, urban, and hiking/walking trails.
The overall response rate of the surveys was 65%. However, the response
rate varied for each trail and for the summer and fall seasons. The
refusal rate was highest on two urban trails and lowest on the four
walking/hiking trails, and the fall refusal rate was lower than the
summer refusal rate on most of the trails. The major findings of these
surveys are summarized below.
- Most of the trail users were walking or hiking, while a few were
cycling (3%) or jogging (2%).
- Nova Scotia residents comprised 40% of the respondents, while the
rest of the trail users interviewed were from other provinces (22%),
the United States (29%), and other countries (9%).
- More than half of the respondents from other provinces came from
Ontario, while more than a third of the U.S. trail users were from
Massachusetts or New York states. The respondents from other countries
resided in 14 other countries including 10 European countries.
- More than half of the Nova Scotia respondents lived within a 30-
minute drive of the study trails, but most of these were urban users.
Trail users from Nova Scotia constituted 96% of the urban trail users,
58% of the hiking/walking trails users, and 15% of the tourist trail
- More than 80% of the interviewees were between the ages of 25 and
64, while the highest percentage of respondents were between 45 and
54 years of age.
- Slightly more males than females were interviewed, while there were
slightly more female members in the group of interviewed.
- Most of the respondents were highly educated and reported high household
incomes, but urban trail users reported both lower education and income
levels than other trail users.
- When asked about their personal trail use, the most frequently chosen
response was that respondents were comfortable using a trail for one
to two hours. In fact, 79% of the trail users reported that they were
comfortable using a trail for four hours or less, and only 6% of the
respondent reported being comfortable on a backpacking trip.
- The average number of times the respondents reported using a trail
in Nova Scotia was 34, but more than 40% of the respondent had used
a trail in Nova Scotia only once in the past 12 months.
- Respondents used an average of three different Nova Scotia in this
time period, but again more than 40% of them used only one trail.
Hiking/walking trail users used more trails than tourist trail users.
- The average time spent by trail users on the trails was 2 hours.
The respondents used fewer trails on average outside of Nova Scotia.
- Frequent trail users reported that they used trails more in the
summer and less in the winter.
- The trail experiences sought most often by the respondents were
mental/physical health benefits (39%), experiencing wilderness (16%),
exploring new places (16%), nature appreciation/study (15%) and viewing
- Trail users reported seeking different kinds of experiences from
the different types of trails.
- Generally, the trails either had a substantial influence or they
had very little influence on the respondents' travel plans.
- Nova Scotia residents were slightly more influenced by the province's
hiking trail system than out-of-province trail users to take their
trips in Nova Scotia to visit the study trails. Nova Scotian's choice
of destination was also more highly influenced by the particular trail
where they were interviewed than were non-Nova Scotians.
- Tourist trail users were also less influenced by particular trails
than hiking/walking trail users.
- The five most frequently citied sources of trail information on
the study trails were word of mouth (30%), general knowledge (22%),
road maps (19%), tourism information centres (14%), and brochures
- More than half of the respondents reported using additional sources
of information for other trails in Nova Scotia. The most frequently
cited sources of additional trail information included books (50%),
tourism information centres (28%), brochures (28%), work of mouth
(18%), and road maps (11%).
- The most common activities undertaken by the respondents on the
study trails on the day they were surveyed included walking/hiking
(95%), photography (42%), wildlife viewing (39%), birdwatching (34%),
and nature study (31%).
- When asked what other activities they generally participated in
when using trails, the three most frequently cited activities were
cycling (24%), cross-county skiing (20%), and photography (20%).
- Overall, the majority of respondents reported that the trail conditions
of the study trails should stay the same.
- The most frequently suggested recommendations for improvements included
more interpretive information (37%), more direction and distance markers
(34%), more drinking water (29%), more trail information brochures
(24%), better identification of the trailhead on the road (24%), more
washrooms (22%), and more garbage cans (20%).
- In general, fewer tourist trail users asked for trail improvements
than other trail uses. They recommended improvements in drinking water
(26%), interpretive information (21%), direction and distance markers
(19%), the identification of the trailhead on the road (16%), trail
information brochures (15%), and washrooms (14%).
- Specific improvements recommended for each study trail are summarized
in the report. The factors which were reported to motivate trail users
to increase their usage the most were more information on specific
trails in guidebooks and brochures (68%), more signs on the road identifying
the exact location of trails (60%), more day use trails (59%), more
ocean views (57%) and more scenic viewing areas (53%).
- The three types of trail users reported being motivated differently
by the nine suggested factors. In general, fewer tourist trail users
reported that they would use trails more if these changes were implemented.
- When asked to suggest other improvements for other Nova Scotia trails,
trail users recommended improvements in signage, maintenance, trail
facilities, trail information, interpretation, more trails, and promotion.
Respondents also noted that there was a general lack of information
- Respondents did not want to share trails with motorized vehicles,
and had mixed views towards the use of bicycles on trails.
- Most trail users agreed that dogs should be kept on leashes.
- Signs were recommended to inform trail users about multi-use trail
- Safety and trail erosion and damage were concerns raised by respondents
about multi-use trails.
- Some respondents felt that multi- use designations of trails needed
to be done on a trail-specific basis.
Trail Counts and Estimated Trail Usage
The average summer use on the study trails was considerably higher
than the average fall trail use. Trail use in the spring was estimated
according to seasonal patterns of Nova Scotia tourism and fall trail
usage patterns. The total estimated trail usage for spring, summer and
fall varied between 2,000 and 33,200 for the individual trails. The
estimated trail usage was highest on the three trails which are know
to be popular with tourists (i.e. Bog, Middle head, and Tiverton). The
Lunenburg Back Harbour Trail received only limited local use, while
the Cape Chignecto and Blomidon trails were found to have the lowest
uses. Given that Cape Chignecto was a new trail this year and only open
from late-June, it is expected that its rate of use will increase in
- The average spending per party for non-Nova Scotians was about $1,210
which breaks down to about $1,210 per party beyond a 30 minute drive
and about $90 within a 30-minute drive of the trail
- In contrast, the average spending per party for Nova Scotia tourist
parties was $210, of which about $130 occurs beyond the 30 minute
drive range and about $80 within the 30 minute range.
- The average spending per party for Nova Scotians living within a
30-minute drive of the trial was only $2.50.
- Aggregate expenditure associated with the use of trails was estimated
at $90.5 million, with 79.4 million derived from tourist trails and
$11.1 million from hiking/walking trails.
- Urban trail uses were found not to make expenditures in connection
with their trail use. Non-Nova Scotians accounted for the bulk of
the spending ($ 86 million), and total spending beyond the 30 minute
drive of trails accounted for $83.3 million.
- When adjusted to take into account the influence of the trail system,
the aggregate spending of trail users declined to $34.3 million. The
trail incremental portion of spending also dropped to $28.3 million
when the influence of particular trails was used.
- Although hiking/walking trails were responsible for only about 12%
of aggregate spending by trail users, these trails accounted for 16%
to 25% of incremental spending.
Future Trail Development
Recommendations for future trail development were focussed in the following
- Improving trail information;
- Improving road signage;
- Providing more interpretative information;
- Providing more trail maintenance and upgrading;
- Increasing trail promotion;
- Reviewing multi-use management policies
- Preventing crowding and over-development;
- Adding more facilities; and,
- Creating new trails (especially ones with coastal scenic views).
Many of these suggestion would be inexpensive to implement, but have
the potential to increase usage of Nova Scotia trails, according to
survey respondents. Respondents indicated that some small, cost- effective
changes would increase their usage of Nova Scotia trails. Only recommendation
pertaining to facilities and new trails would incur much spending. The
decision to implement these recommendation will have to be made on a
trail by trail basis dependent on funding and community support.
The appendices to this report include:
- Background information and methodology issues (a discussion of other
trail users and economic impact surveys, a review of other studies
on the economic impacts of trails, a description of the methodology
and counting problems, a review of other studies measuring trail use,
- English and French copies of the questionnaire;
- A discussion of how total trail use was estimated;
- The detailed survey results;
- An interviewer procedure manual;
- A customised survey manual; and,
- Survey comments.
- A separate Customized Trail Users Survey Manual was also prepared
in this study to assist community groups and other associations interested
in conducting similar trail research.
Download complete 216-page Survey Report (pdf 483 kb)