How much are trails really worth to the state of Vermont? Rough answer? $30.8 million, according to a first-of-its-kind study released today.
Until recently, we only had vague ideas. Kingdom Trails, in East Burke, has done a regular economic assessment. “We figured that each visitor spends $124 and with 94,000 visitors a year, the economic impact comes in at $16 million,” says Tim Tierney, the executive director.
Tierney wasn’t content with just that number though. So, the Vermont Trails & Greenways Council, (working with four of the largest trail organizations in the state: the Catamount Trail Association, the Green Mountain Club and the Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association) commissioned a study to look at the economic impact of trails. The study, which cost approximately $30,000, was conducted by Camoin Associates and looked only at out-of-state visitors. It was funded in part by the four volunteer organizations and a matching grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The findings are impressive:
- 410,000 annual trail users
- $30.8 million in terms of their overall impact to the economy
- $2 million in tax revenues
- 365 jobs supported
- $224 million in annual sales
- $3.4 million in overnight lodging
- $5.6 million in food and beverage spending
As Michael Snyder, the Commissioner of Forest, Parks and Recreation noted at the study’s presentation: “This is the first time a state has commissioned any study like this. We hope to use this to preserve and enhance what Vermont has to offer—and that’s a lot.”
Kingdom Trails’ Tim Tierney noted another use for the study. “If we can show that trails have an economic impact to the state, we might get closer to finding ways to give property owners incentives to host trails on their land. Tierney noted that both Massachusetts and Maine currently offer tax incentives, similar to Vermont’s current use regulatiosn, that encourage property owners to allow public use of their land. “That could even extend to mountain biking trails, public golf course, anything that allows public recreation.”
Note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that VAST was involved. It was not.