Three Rivers Heritage Trail: 2024 Impact Assessment

The Three Rivers Heritage Trail has become vital to Pittsburgh’s identity by honoring the past while contributing to a healthier and more prosperous future.

by Friends of the Riverfront

The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is a 33-mile multi-use riverfront trail system in Pittsburgh. The trail runs along the banks of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail provides access to Pittsburgh’s central business district, neighborhoods, municipalities, shopping, venues, and local attractions. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail also hosts the final segments of the Great Allegheny Passage, Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, and the central nexus for the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition. 

The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is a key piece of the region’s economic transformation and post-industrial resurgence following the collapse of the steel industry. Although it is easy to assume that the now successful trail has always existed, the trail is the outcome of decades of work to restore and reclaim the regions’ riverfronts for public use. Friends of the Riverfront was formed in 1991 to provide leadership and give direction to trail creation and support the development of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system. As sections of the trail developed areas opened to the public for recreational use and social connection. Friends of the Riverfront partnered with mayors, municipal leaders, philanthropic partners, and committed citizens to develop and maintain the trail. 

In 2010, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail – a designation that is granted to regionally significant trails, that have been open to the public for at least 10 years, and practice proper management and maintenance. 

In 2014, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy conducted a study of the users of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. That study estimated 623,000 user visits resulting in a total economic impact of $8.3 million. In the past ten years, the trail has grown from 24 miles to 33 miles through developments that closed gaps in the trail and expanded to new service territory. As the trail has grown over the past decade, so has its economic impact. In 2024, there are an estimated 1.3 million user visits to the trail resulting in $22.4 million in direct economic impact from local spending, and $26.5 million when including indirect and induced benefits. Trail spending supports $16 million in earnings for local workers and generates a total of $5.7 million in tax revenue.

In demonstrating the many benefits of the trail, we hope to celebrate the contributions of those who have championed the effort over the past three decades while inspiring similar projects the world over.

Attached document published March 2024

About the Author

Since its inception in 1991, Friends of the Riverfront has been a pioneering organization working to protect and restore the Pittsburgh region’s rivers and riverfronts after decades of legacy pollution. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail now encompasses over 25 miles of urban riverfront trails along both banks of the mighty Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. Through broad and diverse collaborations, we continue the work of providing environmental restoration, economic vitality, and public health benefits to the Pittsburgh region through the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.

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