COVID-19 has created an economic downturn. Over 1,000 trail projects are waiting for funding to help put Americans back to work.



“Shovel-ready” Definition

Shovel-ready trail projects are projects that, if funding is available and working conditions are safe, could be providing jobs by the summer of 2021. A project can be "shovel-ready" in any phase of development (e.g., acquisition/ROW, planning, design, construction, maintenance), as long as jobs would be created before summer 2021 if the project were funded now.

The purpose of the American Trails “Shovel-ready” Trail Project Survey was to document the contribution the trails community can make to the American economic response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with Penn State's Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management Department, the survey was conducted between May 13 and May 30, 2020. Survey respondents were recruited using a purposive snow-ball approach via the membership and email lists of American Trails, the Trails Move People Coalition, and the formal and informal networks of their members.

This map identifies most of the projects submitted for this effort. Zoom in on your region and click on a red dot to view the key details of individual projects. (Project locations only show one location on a trail, are not necessarily exact, and should not be relied upon for navigation.)

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Trails have been an established economic driver for some time, with the outdoor recreation industry contributing over 800 billion per year to the economy. Now there are more than 1,000 trail projects in the United States waiting on funding to help put Americans to work building, maintaining, and improving our nation’s trails, and this number reflects only a fraction of the estimated need that exists in our nation.

American Trails recently completed a study through Penn State which found data for 1,028 “shovel-ready” trail projects. This means that if funding were provided they would be ready to break ground by summer 2021. Combined, these projects will provide over 83,000 months of work. Not only would these trail projects improve our nation’s trail infrastructure, and provide an essential need for many communities, but they will also help spur our economic recovery after COVID-19.


"Job Months" Definition

Job months is a measure of the ability of a trail project to create or continue employment if funding is available and working conditions are safe. Trail projects have many phases (e.g., planning, construction, maintenance), each of which likely will employ different numbers of workers for different amounts of time. Trail jobs are also inherently seasonal positions. So, in order to represent them more accurately, we needed a shorter time frame than a year on which to measure true employment through 2021.

Through these projects almost 2 billion dollars would be put back into communities through wages, supplies, and other trail spending. Trails have been consistently shown to be an excellent investment, with return on spending far exceeding even that of road infrastructure, yet often trails are overlooked in infrastructure bills.

These trails will serve a diverse cross-section of recreational enthusiasts, including hikers, cyclists, equestrians, paddlers, and motorized trail users.

Respondents were asked to provide location, budget, employment, and other project characteristic information about “shovel-ready” projects under their management.

The survey asked trail managers from across the country about shovel-ready trails projects that, if funding were available and working conditions are safe, could be providing jobs by the summer of 2021. The results are confidential and are made public in aggregated form by state, congressional district, and jurisdiction.

A total of 1,058 individuals responded to the survey. Half (50%) of respondents were affiliated with NGOs or non-profits as employees or volunteers; 41% worked for government at the federal, state, or local level; 8% were in the private sector either as trail professionals or private land owners or managers.

We have also broken out the data for every State (including the District of Columbia) and Congressional District that have submitted project data. If you are looking for data specific to your region, please click on the link for your State below to download your State Fact Sheet.