The 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

John McDonald
B.A. Candidate in Psychology, University of Connecticut-Waterbury

Laura Brown
Associate Extension Professor, Community & Economic Development Educator, University of Connecticut-Extension

Despite having the fourth highest population density in the United States (United States Census American Community Survey, 2013), Connecticut possesses many areas of great natural beauty. More significantly, these resources are located within a short drive of the state’s major cities, and thus provide an easily accessible respite from the pressures of urban life. As the course of economic history has played out in Connecticut, many industrial complexes have been abandoned and reapportioned. Rivers and contaminated sites have been reclaimed and remediated, and many disused canals and railway lines are seeing new life as multi-use trails and greenways. Greenways are defined by the Connecticut State Legislature as corridors of open space that serve several key functions. Greenways protect natural and historical resources such as watersheds, rivers, scenic landscapes, and archaeological sites; connect existing protected areas and provide recreational access for local residents; and, if comprehensive plans reach their fruition, will link communities through an extensive network of public pathways which can also serve as an alternative mode of transportation (Connecticut General Statutes, as cited in Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, 2015).

This literature review represents one part of a study to assess the potential economic impacts of the development Naugatuck River Greenway (NRG) Trail, a proposed 44 mile multi- use trail that will run through the eleven Connecticut communities through which the Naugatuck River flows: Torrington, Harwinton, Litchfield, Thomaston, Watertown, Waterbury, Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Seymour, Ansonia, and Derby. As of this writing, five sections of the Greenway have been completed: the Derby Greenway (2 miles), the Ansonia Riverwalk (0.5 miles), Beacon Falls, (0.5 miles), and Naugatuck (1.1 miles). The study addresses the primary question "How will communities and residents along the Naugatuck River benefit from their investment in building the proposed trail?" It is important to note that the intrinsic value of greenspaces and trails, including the ecosystems and environmental services, mental and health benefits, and other factors that contribute to the quality of life for residents are difficult to monetize and may not be well represented in an economic impact analysis. Decision-makers should consider both intrinsic value and the economic impacts of greenways as vital elements in policy making and resource allocation.

Attached document published August 2015

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