filed under: economics of trails
In total, 6.1 million American livelihoods directly depend on outdoor recreation, making it a critical economic sector in the United States.
IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, it has become clear that natural surface trails are the lowest-cost amenity for a developer to build and maintain. More importantly, however, is that in surveys across the nation, trails are the most popular amenity preferred by home buyers and usually consume very little residual (buildable) land.
Given those advantages, it is surprising how little serious consideration has been given to such a high-yielding amenity. In this challenging market, we believe it is time that trails are given the respect they deserve.
With the help of Merit Property Management and The Planning Center, we have compiled a list of amenities with estimates of cost, and cost per unit for construction and maintenance. We have also indicated the results of an American Lives survey of the popularity of various amenities. Of course, the actual costs will adjust depending on limitless variables, but what is most important is the comparison of one amenity to another, in both the cost category as well as desirability.
What is astounding is that for an initial cost well under $1,000 per unit and a maintenance cost of less than $1 per month per unit, a project can have the amenity that 80 percent of buyers want— natural surface trails.
Based on only a three percent increase in value to the homes by the addition of the most popular amenity, a $520,000 investment would yield $7,200,000 in value.
This represents a return of 14 times the investment! In most cases, this value would be realized during sellout, through higher sales rates rather than higher prices.
Common concerns regarding natural surface trails
It has been our experience that developers often assume that existing farm or fire roads on adjacent land will suffice as trails. While any access to nature will be greatly appreciated, trails that have been designed and engineered to meet the needs of a wide variety of user groups will maximize the value to the customer.
If executed well, people will drive across town to experience the trails. Trails can also provide an alternative transportation network to schools, shopping, or visits with neighbors— that can address the concerns of the growing segment of the population that is eager to reduce car trips because of high gas prices and environmental issues.
Great trails require thoughtful design and construction by people who are specifically trained and experienced in the engineering of sustainable trail networks. In addition, having an experienced marketing company demonstrate the benefits of trails will help maximize the value. The bottom line is that there is no better low-cost/high-impact amenity than natural surface trails. Trailscape has developed experience and expertise implementing a sought-after trail system in several communities.
Published March 2018
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