filed under: economics of trails


American Trails “Shovel-ready” Trail Project Survey

COVID-19 has created an economic downturn. Over 1,000 trail projects are waiting for funding to help put Americans back to work.

The purpose of the American Trails “Shovel-ready” Trail Project Survey, conducted between May 13th and 30th, 2020, was to document the contribution the trails community can make to the American economic response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with Penn State's Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management Department, the survey was conducted between May 13 and May 30, 2020. Survey respondents were recruited using a purposive snow-ball approach via the membership and email lists of American Trails, the Trails Move People Coalition, and the formal and informal networks of their members.

Explore the Map and State Breakdowns

Trails have been an established economic driver for some time, with the outdoor recreation industry contributing over 800 billion per year to the economy. Now there are more than 1,000 trail projects in the United States waiting on funding to help put Americans to work building, maintaining, and improving our nation’s trails, and this number reflects only a fraction of the estimated need that exists in our nation.

American Trails recently completed a study through Penn State which found data for 1,028 “shovel-ready” trail projects. This means that if funding were provided they would be ready to break ground by summer 2021. Combined, these projects will provide over 83,000 months of work. Not only would these trail projects improve our nation’s trail infrastructure, and provide an essential need for many communities, but they will also help spur our economic recovery after COVID-19.

Published July 2020

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