Health Benefits and Funding for Close-to-Home Recreational Trails

Non-motorized trail access was identified as a cost-effective public health strategy for increasing physical activity levels in the Oregon population.

by Terry Bergerson, Project Manager, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Randall Rosengerger, Associate Dean for Student Success and is Professor of Applied Economics, Oregon State University - College of Forestry


The recently completed Oregon Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) identifies a need for additional funding for non-motorized trails in the state. For close-to-home trails, an investment in state resources for non-motorized trail access was identified as a cost-effective public health strategy for increasing physical activity levels in the Oregon population.

This presentation includes findings from a research study conducted by Oregon State University that measured the energy expenditure of people engaged in non-motorized trail use in Oregon, the health benefits as cost of illness savings associated with this trail use, and the economic recreation benefits associated with trail use, all of which are based on statewide outdoor recreation participation survey results.

The presentation also includes methods used to determine a total annual dollar amount needed for a proposed non-motorized trails fund, a set of preferred potential funding sources, options for administering a non-motorized trails fund, and preferred strategies for moving forward with establishing a dedicated non-motorized trails fund in Oregon.

About the Authors

Terry Bergerson has worked as the Oregon State Parks project manager for four SCORP Plans and two Statewide Trails Plans. The 2013-2017 Oregon SCORP plan was chosen by the National Park Service and the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals as the recipient of the SCORP Excellence Award for 2014. Terry is also a co-founder of the Portland Rx Play park prescription program where medical offices write prescriptions for increased physical activity for physically inactive youth to enroll in local park and recreation programs. Terry has spoken at numerous national conferences, including the 2015 American Trails International Trails Symposium, 2008 and 2012 NRPA conferences, 2014 NASORLO conference, 2014 and 2010 SORP conferences ‒ in addition to numerous in-state conferences and workshops. He has a Master of Science Degree in Recreation and Resources Development from Texas A&M University.

Dr. Rosenberger serves as the Associate Dean for Student Success and is Professor of Applied Economics in the Forest Ecosystems & Society Department in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. His educational background is philosophy and applied economics, where his research focuses on economic methods to estimate values for nonmarket resources. In particular, he is known for his work using meta-analysis and benefit transfer tools as applied to valuation of outdoor recreation resources. He maintains the Recreation Use Values Database—an open access collection of empirical economic measures of recreation activities in North America that have been widely used by researchers, planners, consultants, and others interested in the value of recreation. In addition to applying various tools and models for estimating health benefits of outdoor recreation, he has modeled statistical relationships between physical activity, outdoor recreation resources, and health care costs.