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What We Do Home>Transportation Planning>Southwest Michigan Trailways Efforts>Benefits of Trails and Greenways>Economy/Revitalization

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Open spaces have disappeared at an alarming rate to make room for new development. People spend far too much time in traffic, detracting from time that could be better spent with their families and friends.


The economic effects of trails and greenways are sometimes readily apparent, and are sometimes more subtle, like when a company decides to move to a particular community because of amenities like trails. There is no question, however, that countless communities across America have experienced an economic revitalization due in whole or in part to trails and greenways.


Recreational, educational, historical and cultural sites, nature centers, museums, and trails attract tourists. This brings a direct economic benefit to local restaurants, hotels, and service stations as tourists spend dollars on food, lodging, and gasoline. Liveries, equipment and clothing vendors, and other commercial establishments may move into the area to serve the population attracted by a trail.


“For example, in a 1992 study, the National Park Service estimated the average economic activity associated with three multi-purpose trails in Florida, California and Iowa was $1.5 million annually”.


There may be a synergistic effect as "civilized comforts" become available close to the attractions. More and more people are attracted to the outdoor recreation destination, knowing that there is civilization to fall back on in inclement weather and that their hospitality needs will be met before and after their excursion.


Community Revitalization 


Trails and greenways positively impact individuals and improve communities by providing not only recreation and transportation opportunities, but also by influencing economic and community development. Some of the many trails and greenways benefits include:

  • Making communities better places to live by preserving and creating open spaces
  • Creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation and non-motorized transportation 
  • Strengthening local economies
  • Preserving culturally and historically valuable areas
  • Property values increase near trails and local economies are boosted by trail users

Trails and greenways provide countless opportunities for economic renewal and growth. Increased property values and tourism and recreation-related spending on items such as bicycles, in-line skates and lodging are just a few of the ways trails and greenways positively impact community economies.


“According to a study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, birdwatchers spend over $5.2 billion annually”.

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Economic Benefits 


There are economic benefits derived directly from the development and operation of trails. Direct benefits include employment created and money spent on trails. Indirect benefits include the savings to community taxpayers when comparing the expense of trails to the expense of developing, operating and maintaining other types of public recreational facilities.


Communities with trails often benefit in terms of improvements in corporate relocation and retention rates, since quality of life is an important factor in choosing sites for business and industry.


And last, but not least, there is an economic benefit as property values increase due to proximity to green space and increased overall community livability.

This page last updated on 4/3/2009.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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