Communicating the Benefits of Trails

This webinar will introduce attendees to free resources designed to help them communicate the legal issues surrounding trails, as well as the best research on the potential benefits from different types of trails.

Event Details

** This event has passed **

January 11, 2018

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM (Pacific Time) {more time zones}

11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (Mountain Time)
12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (Central Time)
01:00 PM to 02:30 PM (Eastern Time)


FREE for members
FREE for nonmembers

Learning Credit Cost:

  • CEUs are FREE for this webinar.
  • Note:

    Closed Captioning is available for this webinar.
    Learning Credits
    are available for this webinar.


    This webinar is free. Would you consider a donation to support this webinar?


    Webinar Outline

    Prior to developing trails, trail managers frequently are asked to address liability concerns of public and private landowners, as well as to justify investments in developing and maintaining trails. The purpose of this webinar is to introduce attendees to free resources designed to help them communicate the legal issues surrounding trails, as well as the best research on the potential benefits from different types of trails. These benefits include economic, public health, property value, and tax revenue benefits, as well as qualitative trail user preference research.

    The webinar also will provide an introduction to how to use the free Trails Benefits Library, which allows users to access more than 120 trail studies across rural and urban communities in the U.S. and across many user and trail types.

    The presentation will introduce attendees to relevant concepts in liability and legal concerns, economics, public health, and survey research. No prior expertise in these fields is required.


    • Trails can be planned, designed, and managed to minimize legal liability for landowners and trail managers.
    • Trails can be designed to help achieve the economic, health, or quality of life goals of a community. Different goals will result in different trail design and management strategies.
    • Trails can generate business impacts and create new jobs by attracting visitors, especially overnight visitors.
    • Trails are often associated with higher property value, especially when a trail is designed to provide neighborhood access and maintain residents' privacy.
    • The Trails Benefits Library is searchable by type of benefit, type of user, year, and geography. It contains detailed information on how to interpret studies’ results, as well as the original study.


    Webinar Partners

    Webinar Resources

    American Trails Benefits of Trails and Greenways

    Headwaters Economics Trails Benefits Library (note PDF summary documents on sidebar)

    Headwaters Economics—Legal Issues Associated with Trails: An Introduction (PDF)

    National Agricultural Law Center- State Rec Use Statutes

    Rails-Trails and Liability:A Primer on Trail-Related Liability Issues & Risk Management Techniques

    Communicating the Benefits of Trails
    January 11, 2018

    Sue asks:
    How can I find my recreational use statute?

    See the National Agricultural Law Center- State Rec Use Statutes:

    Heather asks:
    I might know of some studies to include in the Trails Library. How can I get them added?

    Email [email protected]. I will add them during our next library update.

    Julie asks

    Do you have any research related to prescription trails programs?

    We have research measuring the benefits of programs similar to prescription parks and trails programs, such as this afterschool program in Miami-Dade County, FL. All studies related to public health are available here.

    Shannon Glendenning asks: We have concerns about the liability for motorized trails and have projects cancelled because the land owners didn’t want to assume the risk, in addition to the other issues.

    Sharing your state’s recreational use statute with landowners might help communicate to them how their risk is limited, and how they are protected by law. A trusted messenger like a similar land owner who has allowed trail access might be more effective.

    Lewis Gorman lll asks: Unclear about the liability related to malicious actions. Could you go over this again?
    Recreational Use Statutes generally protect a landowner except in the case of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct. In general, this means a landowner would have to act intentionally and deliberately with reckless disregard for the safety of others and with full knowledge of the consequences. Extreme examples include installing a tripwire, or removing screws from bridge decking. Willful and wanton conduct can also include when a landowner knows of impending danger but fails to exercise ordinary care to warn users or prevent the danger.

    Any thoughts on how to approach one landowner who has expressed disapproval of a trail by their house or property?
    What are the reasons for disapproval? Concern about liability or safety? Concern about trespass or vandalism? Property values? If you can understand the landowner’s arguments, you may be able to better tailor information to help correct any misinformation or ease concerns. You may also be able to work with the landowner to improve mitigation if there are already trespass or vandalism issues. You can share your state’s Recreational Use Statute language (perhaps with some interpretation into plain English) orthis summary of legal issues to ease fears about liability, vandalism, and trespass. You can share information about property values fromthis summary. You may also want to think about the messenger that could have the most influence over the landowner.

    Janet McBride asks:
    Where can we find the survey/source of the 5-20% higher property values?
    Seethis summary of the impact of trails on property values.

    Gary Hagan asks:
    Have there been any studies on the economic benefits of bikers vs. hikers?
    Not that I’m aware of. But a USFS report, “Spending patterns of outdoor recreation visitors to national forests” has spending estimates by user type.

    Maura McCarthy shares and asks:
    You might interested in what is happening here in Philadelphia concerning trails and public health.

    Can you mention again how many jobs were created because of the Great Allegheny Passage?
    The statistic we mentioned is that one third of businesses expanded or planned to expand due to the trail. Here is a summary of the study about the Great Allegheny Passage, and here is the full, original study.

    Julian Restrepo asks:

    We have a summary of a study in Seattle: https://headwaterseconomics.or...

    This study looks at quality of life and trails in Austin and Houston: Shafer, C. Scott, Bong Koo Lee, and Shawn Turner. "A tale of three greenway trails: user perceptions related to quality of life." Landscape and Urban Planning 49.3 (2000): 163-178.

    Dale Brier asks:
    Could you speak a bit on how crime is reduced as a result of additional trails in an area?

    We don’t know of research showing crime has been reduced, but there are several studies showing that crime did not increase due to new trails, which was a concern of residents. See these summaries in Seattle, WA; Bloomington, IN; and northeastern PAfor examples of studies that have addressed residents’ concerns about crime.

    John Stegmaier asks:
    What kinds of best practices are emerging around e bikes on shared use pathways?

    The International Mountain Biking Association has a page of resources related to e-Bikes.

    Steven Schnell asks:
    A lot of questions we get are about long-term maintenance costs for each trail type. I know this would vary quite a bit depending on the type of construction. Have you seen a good resource or manual that provides maintenance guidance and/or cost estimates by trail type?

    Rails to Trails Conservancy has a helpful report on maintenance costs for trails, largely rails-to-trails type.

    Robert Taber asks:
    You indicated a legal response of hospitals that must be sought out. Can you please go over that again.

    Under the affordable care act, tax-exempt hospitals are required to complete a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years and adopt an implementation strategy to address those needs. The Federal Register notice has the technical details and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials has a nice overview.

    Jessie Young asks:
    Have studies been done that identify the property value differences between properties that are directly adjacent to a trail or a property in which a trail goes through a property vs in proximity or with access to a trail?

    A few studies look at how the price premium varies based on distance from the trail. These studies in San Antonio, TX; Springfield, OH; and Methow Valley, WA are some examples.

    Chris Gensic asks:
    In talking to Homeowners Associations, we tell them that trail raise property values, and they immediately say, "So my tax assessment will rise if we grant this trail"? How do we better communicate the difference between long range home sale values vs. short term property value increases so they don't feel that the trail will raise their mortgage/tax immediately? Same for gentrification issues in urban areas.

    This is a tough question, because yes, property assessments will likely rise. This study in Austin, TX estimated the change in tax revenue and it is relatively modest for individual property owners. Other research (Bloomington, IN and Omaha, NE) that surveyed property owners have found the benefits for quality of life and health far outweigh the costs.

    Hank Seemann asks:
    Some business owners may perceive certain trail benefit studies as biased with presupposed results. Are you aware of studies of trail benefits developed by business sources, for example from within the hospitality industry?

    Many of the economic impact studies in our library, like this one in Orange County, FL, were funded by state or regional economic development organizations.

    Richelle Ellis shares:
    (Not a question) If you ever need to look for a potential funding source for future trail projects- if the project would be adjacent to a Federal Land (i.e. National Park or FWS Wildlife Refuge, Natl Forest etc). Consider the Federal Lands Access Program. We have funded many trail projects in all states! See link for details:

    Thank you for this resource. We’ll pass this along to the communities where we work.

    Mike Smith asks:
    Is there any Safe Routes to School data or relevant information in your resources?

    We do not have specific studies on Safe Routes to School, but this study in the Twin Cities, MN finds that bike commuters will go out of their way to ride on safer routes.

    Julian Andres asks:
    Are there statistics for trails in urban settings. Most of the examples where from small communities and we are currently working on a 100 km trail in Bogotá, Colombia. Statstics from bigger communities would be very valuable to communicate the project.

    We have studies in Seattle, WA; San Antonio, TX; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.

    This study looks at quality of life and trails in Austin and Houston: Shafer, C. Scott, Bong Koo Lee, and Shawn Turner. "A tale of three greenway trails: user perceptions related to quality of life." Landscape and Urban Planning 49.3 (2000): 163-178.

    Closed Captioning

    We are offering closed captioning for our webinars, thanks to a partnership with VZP Digital. If you are in need of this service, please email us prior to the webinar. An unedited transcript will be sent to all attendees following the webinar.

    Learning Credits and CEUs

    American Trails is proud to be a certified provider of the following learning credits and continuing education opportunities:

    • American Institute of Certified Planners Continuing Maintenance (AICP CM)
    • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES PDH)
    • National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) CEU equivalency petition
    • CEU/PDH equivalency petition for other accepting organizations

    Learning credits are free for attendees for American Trails webinars and the International Trails Symposium, as well as for other conferences, webinars, and workshops we offer credits for. Learn more here.


    While we may individually agree (or disagree) in whole or in part with any or all of the participants, the views expressed in these webinars are not necessarily representative of the views of American Trails as an organization or its board and staff.

    Terms and Privacy Policy

    By registering for this webinar, you submit your information to the webinar organizer and associated presenters and sponsors, who may use it to communicate with you regarding this event and their other services. You can easily cancel your registration at any time.

    More Trainings by American Trails