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Benefits of trails
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Motorized, Non-Motorized and Water Trail Benefits and Bibliography
Motorized Trails [Benefits] [Bibliography]
Non-Motorized Trail [Benefits] [Bibliography ]
Water Trail [Benefits] [Bibliography]

Understanding Community Benefits of Trails
During the trail issues workshops, public recreation providers and trail interest groups suggested that the trails plan include trail benefits information for them to better make the argument for proposed trail projects and address some common misconceptions adjacent landowners have about proposed trails (e.g. increases in crime and decreases in property values). They also asked that we provide trail benefits information in a variety of ways including brief summaries, more in-depth reports, and bibliography lists for those interested in conducting addition research on their own.

Recreational Value and Health Benefits
The recreational value of trails are often their foremost attraction. In addition to the entertainment values of recreation, there is a significant health and fitness benefit as most recreation activities on trails involve exercise. This health benefit accrues to the individual, and, in the form of reduced health-care costs, to society as well.

Transportation Enhancement and Safety Benefits
Serving as transportation corridors, trails encourage pedestrian and bicycle commuting as an alternative to automobile commuting, thus reducing traffic and congestion on roads, and reducing fuel consumption and its associated pollution. Again, there is a health benefit in choosing this mode of transportation. Safety is another community benefit where designated pedestrian and bicycle paths provide an opportunity to separate human-powered commuters from automobiles.

Economic Benefits
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.

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.

Environmental Benefits
Trails and greenways can play an important role in improving water quality and mitigating flood damage. Greenways preserve critical open space that provides natural buffer zones to protect streams, rivers and lakes from pollution run-off caused by fertilizer and pesticide use on yards and farms. They can also serve as flood plains that absorb excess water and mitigate damage caused by floods. Such conservation efforts make good sense, because they save communities money in the long run.

Preserving Our History and Culture
Trails have the power to connect us to our heritage by preserving historic places and by providing access to them. They can give people a sense of place and an understanding of the enormity of past events, such as Indian trails and vast battlefields. Trails and greenways draw the public to historic sites. Other trails preserve transportation corridors. Rail-trails along historic rail corridors provide a glance at the importance of this mode of transportation. Many canal paths, preserved for their historic importance as a transportation route before the advent of railroads, are now used by thousands of people each year for bicycling, running, hiking and strolling.

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