Business Impact of Monongalia River Trails System

Prepared by Christiaan Abildso, Jessica Coffman, and Thomas Bias

This report summarizes a study of the business impact of the Mon River Trails System. A network of 48 miles of trails in north central West Virginia that has been in operation in‐whole or in‐part since 1998.

The findings from our work are applicable for many audiences, including trail advocates, elected officials, economic development entities, and business owners with trail usage patterns and sociodemographic profile that are like the MRTS and the surrounding area in two ways. First, the MRTS is a local transportation and recreation hub, not a tourism‐driven trail. Second, the geographic area of study is a densely populated rural core city with a well‐educated population and predominantly white‐collar employment.

A key lesson from our work is that trail development can be a double‐edged sword ‐ it has economic benefits to localities and businesses, but can cause such demand that it creates a barrier to trail‐oriented development, especially for small businesses. A locality should not ask “if” a trail will bring economic activity, rather it should plan for “how much” and “what type” of economic activity a trail will bring.

Attached document published April 2017

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