filed under: economics of trails
This report is a summary of findings from existing studies, which provide examples of the economic impact of water trails in their respective communities. It is meant to provide a helpful resource to communities interested in learning about the economic benefit water trails have provided for cities and towns in the US.
Water trails are marked routes on navigable waterways such as rivers, lakes, canals, and coastlines for people using small non-motorized boats such as kayaks, canoes, rafts, and rowboats.
They were not formed to be an economic engine for communities, but rather, were created by environmentalists, conservationists, and recreationalists to make nature accessible and to encourage environmental awareness. They have evolved to be recreational routes on waterways with a network of public access points supported by broad-based community partnerships.
Historically, many towns and urban areas have turned their backs on their rivers due to water quality issues, fear of flooding, and dams. Not surprisingly, communities have not always had systems in place to maintain safe waterside trails, advocate for their use, and educate the public about their value as outdoor amenities. Today, communities are discovering the benefits of water trails and beginning to look to their waterfronts as assets. By sharing meaningful examples of economic benefits of water trails they are learning how they can engage a larger audience (outside of the environmental realm) to create a positive impact in new communities, rediscovered natural spaces, and new businesses.
While their contribution to the growth of outdoor activity has not been measured per se, water trails programs contribute to the health of the outdoor recreation industry. The Outdoor Industry Association ranked outdoor recreation as the third largest industry ($646 billion annual consumer spending) after outpatient healthcare and financial services and insurance ($767 and 780 billion, respectively). The outdoor recreation economy grew 5% during an economic recession from 2005 to 2011 (The Outdoor Recreation Economy, 2012), and paddlesports have increased significantly withinthe outdoor industry arena. Water sports (motorized and non-motorized) contributed $85 billion in spending, $4.8 billion in local and state taxes, and created over 800,000 jobs.
An example of recent recession-related growth in outdoor recreation, Minnesota’s kayak registrations doubled between 2000 and 2005: new boat ownership offered a tremendous opportunity for communities to promote their water trails and provide amenities that draw paddlers to their town (MN Canoe and Kayak Study, 2005).
The 140 million Americans who spent $646 billion on outdoor recreation created $80 billion per year in national, state, and local tax revenues (The Outdoor Recreation Economy, 2012).
Published August 2015
Public Lands and the Continental Divide Trail Study
The primary goal of this study was to understand who uses the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), how they use it, their preferences, and the economic impact of the CDT in the region. Additional data were also collected regarding protecting public lands and using the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado.
2022 CDT Small Business Survey
From August to December 2021, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition surveyed 136 small business owners in 38 communities located along the Continental Divide Trail to learn more about how the Continental Divide Trail impacts their businesses, the local economy, and their support for public lands.
Everything you need to know about the positive impact of trails on health, environment, economics, and more.
2022 CDT Small Business Survey
As a connector of landscapes, communities, and cultures, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) provides a setting for community members, decision makers, conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, and everyone connected to the lands and waters of the Divide, to come together to discuss how to steward the vital natural, cultural, and historic resources found across its entirety. With this report, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition hopes to highlight the role of the cooperative stewardship model in the management of the CDT, what we accomplished in 2021, and what we are looking forward to in 2022.