filed under: economics of trails

The Economic Benefits of Mountain Biking at One of Its Meccas: An Application of the Travel Cost Method to Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah

A Journal of Leisure Research Publication

This 1997 paper estimates the value of a relatively new form of recreation: mountain biking. Its popularity has resulted in many documented conflicts, and its value must be estimated so an informed decision regarding trail allocation can be made. A travel cost model (TCM) is used to estimate the economic benefits, measured by consumer surplus, to the users of mountain bike trails near Moab, Utah.

Jlr volume 29 number 3 pp 342 352

It can be concluded that the bike trails in the Moab area produce a high value of consumer surplus to the users, $197 and $205 per trip, depending on the model specification. The corresponding annual values for the Slickrock Trail are also large, $8,422,800 and $8,770,300. Although these estimates of consumer surplus may not easily transfer to other areas, due to the uniqueness of Moab, it is still useful for land managers to note that there are large benefits resulting from land being used for mountain biking.

It should be noted that mountain biking is only one activity which can be done at Moab and, therefore, mountain biking is only part of the total economic value associated with Moab. Moab's total economic value will consist of all use values such as hiking, rafting, and sightseeing as well as existence, option, and bequest values. It should also be noted that mountain biking will have different values at different sites depending on the characteristics of the site and visitors.

This study also demonstrates the applicability of the travel cost method to estimating the economic value of mountain biking. As further studies are done at less nationally well-known sites it will be interesting to compare values. Nonetheless, it appears that devotees of mountain biking receive substantial benefit per-trip and it may be an economically competitive use of public recreation areas.

Published June 1997

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