filed under: economics of trails


Impact of Trails Hub

Everything you need to know about the positive impact of trails on health, environment, economics, and more.


These guides and resources provide a framework for understanding the impact of trails.

Free Webinars on the Impacts of Trails

The Catalytic Impact of Trails
Explore how trails influence many aspects of quality of life as we explore the catalytic impact of trails through the Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet, and Profit.

Economic Impact of Livable Communities with Active Transportation Options
This webinar explores the concept of "Livable Communities" which include trails as a part of the transportation infrastructure.

Trails Move People: Articulating the Impact and Amplifying the Voice of the Trails Community
In partnership with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), American Trails and NOHVCC will discuss how trails, for too long, have been taken for granted and the true measure of their impact has not been calculated or shared.

Trails for Us: How Trails Benefit Local Communities
Learn how trails benefit local communities and how you can make the case for yours.


Resources and Guides on the Impacts of Trails


Economic Impacts

A Snapshot of the Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor recreation spending in Western states equaled $255.6 billion – nearly 40% of the national total. This includes purchases of outdoor gear and vehicles as well as travel expenditures when enjoying the great Western outdoors.

Case Studies of Water Trail Impacts on Rural Communities
Water trail development causes economic and social and impacts on rural communities.

Economic Impact Analysis of the Kansas City, MO Bicycle Master Plan
Economic Impact Analysis shows new bike master plan will save 36 lives every year, add $500 million to the regional economy, and create 12,000 jobs.

Economic Impact of Investments in Bicycle Facilities
This study examines the value of public investment in bicycle facilities.

Economic Impact of Greenways and Multi-Use Trails
A review of literature prepared as part of the Naugatuck River Greenway Economic Impact Study August, 2015

Economic Impact of Parks
An Examination of the Economic Impacts of Operations and Capital Spending by Local Park and Recreation Agencies on the U.S. Economy

Economic Impacts and Motivations of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreationists
This Florida case study surveys the economic impacts, motivations, and travel and equipment expenditures of OHV recreationists.

Economic Impacts of Mountain Biking and Bike Trail Events and Festivals in West Virginia
WVU Extension Service Working Paper on how mountain biking and mountain biking facilities can bring an array of benefits to rural communities.

Impacts of the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail on the Economy and Business Community
The Pere Marquette railroad corridor began as an industrial asset to transport raw materials and finished goods across the state of Michigan. Today the corridor remains a significant transportation asset providing transit, exercise, and recreation experiences to residents and tourists.

Mohawk-Hudson Trail Analysis of Use, Regional Benefits, and Economic Impact
The primary purpose of this report is to heighten awareness of the regional, recreational, and economic asset and to bolster current efforts to extend and improve the facility.

Pedestrian and Bicycling Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts
This study estimates the employment impacts of building and refurbishing transportation infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.

Valuing Bicycling’s Economic and Health Impacts in Wisconsin
The results of this study demonstrate that bicycling has the potential to contribute substantially to the health and economic well-being of Wisconsin citizens.

Environmental Impacts

Best Management Practices to Minimize Horse Trail Impacts on the Hoosier National Forest
This research investigates horse trail impacts to gain an improved understanding of the relationship between various levels of horse use, horse trail management alternatives, and subsequent horse trail degradation.

Comparing Relative Impacts of Various Trail User Groups
A summary of research and studies on factors that affect trails management strategy and determining uses for each trail.

Environmental Impacts from Mtn Bicycles, Electric Mtn Bicycles, & Motorcycles
The emergence of electric bicycles, commonly known as e-bikes, is a rapidly growing component of the bicycle market in the US. As a transportation option, they represent an opportunity to reduce vehicle use and emissions, as well as the physical barriers to cycling. For use on trails, they present similar opportunities to reduce barriers to cycling but, as a new use, present new challenges for trail management.

Examining the Impacts of an Urban Greenway on Crime in Chicago
Using multiple analytical approaches, our study showed that creation of Chicago’s 606 was associated with decreases in violent, property, and disorderly crimes between 2011 and 2015.

Mountain Bike Activity in Natural Areas: Impacts, Assessment, and Implications for Management
This report addresses mountain biking as a recreational activity by examining styles of riding and the corresponding demands of riders. It also identifies the major impacts of mountain biking and explores potential management techniques for developing sustainable mountain biking activities in natural areas.

Natural Resource Impacts of Mountain Biking
A summary of scientific studies that compare mountain biking to other forms of trail travel.

Studies Weigh Mountain-Biking, Hiking Impacts
New research suggests that mountain bikes and boots leave equal wear and tear on trails. How bikers ride and where hikers step may make more of a difference.

Studying Impacts of Visitor Use on the Appalachian Trail
Visitor use impacts associated with the Appalachian Trail include use of the footpath itself, overnight use areas (both designated and bootleg), and human waste management.

The Impact of Aging Populations on Outdoor Recreation
New Report Says Longer Healthy Life Expectancy Multiplies Seniors Competing in Sports and Keeping Fit.


Success Stories of the Impacts of Trails

Assessing the Economic Impact and Health Effects of Bicycling in Minnesota
This project estimated the economic impact of the bicycling industry and events in Minnesota, estimated bicycling infrastructure use across the state, and assessed the health effects of bicycling in the Twin Cities metropolitan area (TCMA).

Business Impact of Monongalia River Trails System
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.

Economic Impact and Importance of Snowmobiling in Idaho
Snowmobiling provides a major recreational opportunity in Idaho given the State’s climatic conditions and mountainous terrain. In addition to the enjoyment provided by snowmobiling, it generates significant impacts in terms of employment and economic activity in many counties and for the State as a whole. In order to estimate the economic importance of snowmobiling in Idaho, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) contracted with the Department of Economics at Boise State University (BSU) to perform this study of snowmobiling on a county by- county basis and statewide.

Economic Impact of Off-Highway Recreation in the State of Arizona
From 2016 to 2017 Arizona State University conducted a study to measure the economic impact of OHV recreation, by retained and out-of-state visitors, on the State of Arizona.

Economic Impact of Recreational Trail Use in Different Regions of Minnesota
The main objective of this report is to present the local economic impacts of trail use in various regions of the state.

Impact of the Little Miami Scenic Trail on Single Family Residential Property Values
The study found that the Little Miami Scenic Trail positively impacts single-family residential property values, with sale prices increasing by $7.05 for every foot closer a property is located to the trail.

Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Operations, Operators, Expenditures and Economic Impacts
Iowa off-highway vehicle owners spent approximately $72.4 million in 2018 on in-state operating expenses and related personal expenses. Total Iowa asset purchase and operating/personal expenditures generated approximately 1,018 jobs in the Iowa economy paying an average of $42,850 annually. Off-highway vehicle owners spent about $28.9 million outside the state of Iowa in 2018. If that had been spent in-state, it would have generated $34.9 million in Iowa industrial output and 374 jobs paying annual incomes of $31,180 per job.

Nebraska Rural Trails: Three Studies of Trail Impact
Documenting the impact of Nebraska’s developing trail system, using surveys to learn more about usage patterns, public safety, property values, and community quality of life along three rural rail-trails.

The Economic and Fiscal Impact of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in West Virginia
The analysis indicates that the nearly $1.7 million in spending conducted by the Hatfield-McCoy Trails for day-to-day operations generated an additional $1.6 million in economic activity within the State, for a total operational impact of $3.3 million. Even more notably, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails bring non-local visitors to the area whose spending is estimated to generate an additional $19 million in economic activity in West Virginia. Together, the total estimated economic impact of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails is more than $22 million.

The Economic Impact of Snowmobiling in Utah
An analysis on the value of snowmobiling to Utah’s economy, the sociodemographic composition of participants, and more.

The Economic Impact of the Erie Canalway Trail
An assessment and user profile of New York's longest multi-use trail

The Economic Impact of the South Dakota Snowmobiling Industry
South Dakota’s snowmobile trail system is maintained without any contribution from general fund dollars, but brings substantial economic activity into the state. This study estimates the magnitude of that economic activity and its effect on the overall state economy.


photo credit: Stuart Macdonald

Trail Impact Focused Organizations

Vermont Tourism Research Center, University of Vermont
Outdoor recreation and trail use in Vermont has a long history of contributing to the economy, influencing the culture of local communities, and impacting the natural environment. VTRC provides resources that document the state's efforts to improve sustainability and management of Vermont's trail networks and trail-based recreation.

BioSpan Technologies
Built on patented technology, BioSpan products offer a fresh approach to oil recovery, pavement preservation, industrial cleanup and resource recovery without negative environmental impact.

District of Columbia, District Department of Transportation
The District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) mission is to enhance the quality of life for District residents and visitors by ensuring that people, goods, and information move efficiently and safely, with minimal adverse impact on residents and the environment.

Travel Oregon
The Oregon Tourism Commission, dba Travel Oregon, works to enhance visitors’ experiences by providing information, resources, and trip planning tools that inspire travel and consistently convey the exceptional quality of Oregon. The commission aims to improve Oregonians’ quality of life by strengthening the economic impacts of the state’s $12.3 billion tourism industry that employs more than 115,000 Oregonians.

Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority
The mission of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority is to market the South Shore of Lake Tahoe as a unique, world-class, year-round destination to the regional, national and international marketplace, and to favorably impact the South Shore economy through overnight stays and tourism spending.

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs
ADECA is responsible for administering a broad range of state and federal programs that contribute to the department’s mission — Building Better Alabama Communities. Each year we distribute hundreds of millions of dollars to Alabama cities, counties, non-profit organizations, and others. Our grants support economic development projects, infrastructure improvements, job training, energy conservation, law enforcement, traffic safety, recreation development, and assistance to low-income families. We also work to monitor and protect Alabama’s water resources, and we distribute state and federal surplus property to local governments and other qualified organizations. ADECA programs are as diverse as the people of Alabama and impact every corner of the state. The department works to assist children, the elderly, victims of crime and abuse, the disadvantaged and poor, and the unemployed. Businesses, local governments, schools, and non-profit organizations benefit from the hundreds of grants and contracts administered by ADECA.​

Texan by Nature
Texan by Nature has a vision to align the broad interests of conservation groups with the resources of businesses, health care institutions, schools, the scientific community, and faith-based organizations. By building on the Texan mindset and combining our respective strengths, we can collectively create a positive impact for Texas’ economy, people, and land for generations to come.

Published April 2022

More Articles in this Category

The influence of use-related, environmental, and managerial factors on soil loss from recreational trails

This research investigated the influence of several use-related, environmental, and managerial factors on soil loss on recreational trails and roads at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the U.S. National Park Service.

All-Terrain Vehicle Sustainability Assessments

The sustainable management of ATV use is an expensive proposition requiring careful design, construction, and maintenance of ATV trails.

Assessing the Condition and Sustainability of the Trail System at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

This research assessed the condition and sustainability of the trail system at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, a National Park Service unit that partners with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in the management of this unit.

The Influence of Layout on Appalachian Trail Soil Loss, Widening, and Muddiness

This research investigates the influence of layout and design on the severity of trail degradation.