Category Archives: Reports

What Impact do trails have on Neighbors and the Local Community?

A study was done on impacts of the Pinellas Trail in Pinellas County
(Tampa/St Pete), Florida. Some information on the study (from Whit Blanton
of Renaissance Planning Group, which conducted the study) is included below:

In 2000, the Pinellas County MPO commissioned Renaissance Planning Group of
Orlando to conduct a study of the community impacts associated with the
Pinellas Trail, a 34-mile converted railroad in the St.
Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida. The MPO was planning extensions of
the trail and connections to it from other communities, and had encountered
opposition from homeowner groups and others about potentially negative
impacts on property values, noise and crime. The study was intended to
evaluate economic impacts in terms of residential property values, business
investment, and crime statistics, and included a household survey of
residents living within 1/4 mile of the trail. The trail was divided into
segments to better capture the effect of surrounding land use and crime
characteristics. A national literature review was also completed.

Major findings:
The literature review concluded that trails have a deterrent effect on
crime, a neutral or slightly positive effect on property values, and bring
new money into the local economy. This was borne out by the local analysis.

For all trail segments studied, the median home sale prices adjacent to the
trail are escalating faster than countywide. The rate of increase was
particularly high in certain areas. The results indicated that the trail
does not negatively impact property values and suggested that it may help
increase property values by roughly 2 percent to 3 percent annually over

In St. Petersburg, it was determined that crime rates for “trail tracts” were not statistically
different from citywide crime tracts. Accordingly, the Pinellas Trail does
not contribute to crime rates. Peaks in crime rates seem to be related to
the character of the area rather than to the existence of the Pinellas
Trail. Generally, the 1993, 1995, and 1999 crime statistics support the
finding that the trail has not exacerbated criminal activities. Factors
external to the trail are better indicators of crime rates.

There were several important findings from the residents’ survey. The most
negative perceptions of the trail are held by the 5 percent of residents who
have never used the trail. Even though infrequent users gave the Pinellas
Trail a negative overall rating, their composite score was not as low as the
score given by residents who had not been on the trail. Infrequent users
were primarily concerned about the trail’s adverse impact on crime, privacy,
and noise. As a group, they still rated the trail as having a positive
impact on property values, accessibility, and neighborhood acquaintances.
Daily users had the highest composite rating of the trail; however, they
were still marginally concerned about crime (0.09) and privacy (0.05). The
single strongest indicator of trail perception is trail usage and, because
of the high use of the trail (66%), the overall perception of the trail is

While the trail is generally seen as a community asset, the neighborhoods
that are the most concerned about the Pinellas Trail are those who perceive
inequities between communities in the way that the trail is constructed,
maintained, and policed.

Realtors were surveyed as well, and 90 percent said that home sales had
increased significantly or increased somewhat in areas near the trail versus
other areas in the market.

The business survey revealed that a majority of businesses near the trail
were expanding their facilities or experiencing increasing sales, and
generally reported positive impacts from their proximity to the trail.

Copies of the report can be obtained by contacting Al Bartolotta of the
Pinellas County MPO (727-464-8200;
). RPG contact is Whit Blanton. (

Jennifer Z. Carver, AICP
Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Planner
Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency
300 South Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 891-8090 S/C 280-8090
Fax: (850) 891-8734

Happy trails

Christian Science Monitor, from the November 19, 2003 edition

Want to get to the post office in a hurry? The nearest bike trail may be the best way.

By Ross Atkin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Retired warehouseman George Redman loves to hit the trail – the asphalt ribbon that runs only a few blocks from his house in East Providence, R.I. Year-round, the 79-year-old grabs his trusty 10-speed Schwinn, the one with the saddlebags on the back and an additional bag in the front, and takes a daily spin, often 20 miles or more along Narragansett Bay.
Besides offering ample fresh air and exercise, the bicycle rides connect Mr. Redman to people and places in a way that nothing else does.

He explores towns, stops to read a book or buy a bottle of water, and frequents his favorite sandwich shop, the Café la France in Bristol, R.I., with its outdoor tables and bike rack.
Unlike traditional bike paths, the trail Redman uses isn’t strictly recreational. It is utilitarian. Instead of just passing through lovely scenery, it takes him and others to useful places, illustrating what some experts see as the future of trails.
In the past, recreational trails were typically located outside cities, says Richard Killingsworth, director of Active Living by Design, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This didn’t allow them to connect destinations of interest. But now we’re entering a new kind of paradigm, looking at how trails can be used as transportation corridors, located in dense residential areas where they connect people to places they want to go.”
The shift is an acknowledgment that trails must integrate with everyday lives. Otherwise they serve a relatively small constituency of Lycra-clad cycling enthusiasts and suburbanites out for Saturday fun or exercise rides, which begin by driving to the trail.
Nowadays, the idea is to make it easy and attractive to think the way Europeans do, who are more inclined than Americans to cycle during their daily rounds.
Certainly Redman is a pedaling billboard for the benefits of regular trail use. And Rhode Island, where he rides, is an excellent example of the networking that is increasingly connecting scattered, local trail-building efforts.
The East Bay Bike Path runs 14-1/2 miles through towns and hamlets, eventually making a connection that leads into Providence, where the plan is for several trails to converge and link to the ambitious East Coast Greenway, a 2,600-mile work in progress.
When completed, possibly by 2010, this interurban, firm-surface equivalent to the Appalachian Trail will run from the Canadian border in Maine to the Florida Keys.
It’s being pieced together – like a massive quilt – sometimes in high-visibility areas. Last year, for example, one stretch was designated that runs along the Mall in Washington, at the heart of the nation’s capital. Another metro trail runs to Washington National Airport.
Major trails, such as the East Coast Greenway, are like tree trunks from which many branches (local trails) grow.Mark Fenton, a cycling advocate and host of the PBS program “America’s Walking,” says that creating numerous connections is the key to the increased usage public trails have begun to experience.
This is evident in Seattle, which has set itself apart with bike-friendly initiatives, including the Burke-Gilman trail, a granddaddy among urban trails. “Much of what has happened there,” Mr. Fenton says, “is not at all glamorous. It’s [a network of] little neighborhood connectors – maybe the cut-through at the end of a cul de sac that allows you to access a trail from a neighborhood that connects to a school or a playground or something like that. It makes all the difference in the world.”
Trail connectivity is a challenge, especially in built-up areas. This is where unused or abandoned railroad corridors and canal towpaths have come in handy.
The rails-to-trails movement converts out-of-use railroad rights of way to trails. In doing so it has become increasingly important to developing urban trail infrastructure, since rail corridors often run through the middle of towns and are ready-made and mostly flat.
The US has 12,648 miles of rail trails that serve about 100,000 users a year, and many more miles are under development or under consideration. When available rail corridors run out, many communities are marking off bike lanes at the sides of streets. (The East Coast Greenway, when completed, should be 20 percent on-road.)
Indianapolis is going even further with its bold plan to build the Cultural Trail, a downtown greenway that would use existing traffic lanes to connect five designated cultural districts.
One lane of the center city’s wide thoroughfares would be co-opted for a multiuse, 6-1/2-mile landscaped trail. Approval seems almost certain for this $15 million to $20 million project, which aims to enhance the city’s appeal to both residents and visitors. If built, it would also connect with the very popular Monon Trail and create a circuit for cafe- and theater-hopping.
“Probably 70 percent of the time you’d be seeing something beautiful, and every five or 10 minutes you could stop and find a restaurant, a gallery, a store, or park,” says Brian Payne, president of the Indianapolis Foundation, a major supporter of the project.
Tourists might also be able to use the path. New smart-card technology could be employed to automate bike rentals at various points.
There’s mounting evidence that municipalities and homeowners like bikeways and trails. Homeowners see them as a popular neighborhood amenity that often enhances property values, and civic leaders view trails as green infrastructure that links open spaces and creates alternative transportation routes.
Still, building trails can be a long, arduous process, which may bog down over jurisdictional, design, and approval issues. For example, the Minuteman Bikeway, which stretches 11 miles between Cambridge and Lexington, Mass., took 18 years to complete.
In Michigan, the GreenWays Initiative is helping to stimulate faster action and foster greater regional cooperation. A program of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, the initiative has created a $75 million financial incentive for greenway development in a seven-county area that includes Detroit.
In three years 53 grants have been made to local trail developers, and more groups are “lining up,” says GreenWays director Tom Woiwode. “By having a time line, we’re trying to create an urgency to get these plans done and projects started.”
Some of the most exciting plans involve Detroit, where a three-mile riverfront trail could stimulate development of a citywide network, fanning out from the banks of the Detroit River to every neighborhood.
Roughly a half-dozen subregional trail coalitions have been formed among neighboring communities. In addition, Mr. Woiwode says, what began as a movement of bicyclists and hikers has now grown into a movement of community activists, with architects, planners, public health advocates, and businesspeople all joining in.
After a trail is finished, there’s often a need to acquaint people with the trail. “The first users you’re going to see on the trail are the hard core from the local walk and biking clubs,” Fenton explains. “Then you’ll see groups and families, dads and moms with the kids. Over time, more routine use by individuals will become common.” At that point, the trail has arrived.

Trails = Better neighbourhoods, better fitness

Canadian broadcasting corporation

Better neighbourhoods, better fitness
Last Updated Thu, 28 Aug 2003 13:42:31

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA – Trails and streetlights are important elements in influencing how much people exercise, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina discovered access to trails and other places suitable for exercise are especially key.

The report, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, examined the link between neighbourhood characteristics and level of exercise.

Researchers called a sample of 1,796 randomly selected adults in the U.S. and asked questions ranging from how much the person exercises to whether there were sidewalks, trails or biking lanes in their communities.

They looked at rural, suburban and urban areas.

“We found no association between leisure activity and unattended dogs and only a weak link with heavy traffic,” said Dr. Sara Huston, one of the study’s authors.

“But people who reported having access to places for exercise of various kinds and those who reported neighbourhood trails were significantly more likely to be getting the recommended amount of physical activity.”

Huston said the survey included a diverse population. Researchers found blacks, American Indians and those with lower incomes and less education were less likely to exercise but only because of their “less favourable” neighbourhoods.

Huston says the study was meant as a springboard to find out why American adults have such high rates of obesity.

One recent study attributed more than 280,000 deaths in the U.S. to people being overweight or obese.

Economic Benefits of Greenways: a Summary of Findings

Adapted by The Conservation Fund’s American Greenways Program: Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails, and Greenway Corridors – National Park Service, 1990.

Real Property Values
Many studies demonstrate that parks, greenways and trails increase nearby property values, thus increasing local tax revenues. Such increased revenues often offset greenway acquisition costs.

A. California’s Secretary for the State Resources Agency estimated that $100 million would be returned to local economies each year from an initial park bond investment of $330 million (Gilliam, 1980).

B. A greenbelt in Boulder, Colorado increased aggregate property values for one neighborhood by $5.4 million, resulting in $500,000 of additional annual property tax revenues. The tax alone could recover the initial cost of the $1-5 million greenbelt in three years (Cornell, Lillydahl, and Singel, 1978).

C. In the vicinity of Philadelphia’s 1,300 acre Pennypack Park, property values correlate significantly with proximity to the park. In 1974, the park accounted for 33 percent of the value of land 40 feet away from the park, nine percent when located 1,000 feet away, and 4.2 percent at a distance of 2,500 feet (Hammer, Coughlin and Horn, 1974).

Expenditures by Residents
Spending by local residents on greenway related activities helps support recreation related business and employment, as well as businesses patronized by greenway and trail users.

A. Residents are increasingly spending vacations closer to home, thus spending increasing amounts of vacation dollars within the boundaries of the state (NPS 1990).

B. In 1988, recreation and leisure was the third largest industry in Califoraia. More than $30 billion is spent each year by Californians on recreation and leisure in their state. This amounts to 12 percent of total personal consumption (California Department of Parks and Recreation, 1988).

Commercial Uses
Greenways often provide business opportunities, locations and resources for commercial activities such as recreation equipment rentals and sales, lessons, and other related businesses.

A. Along the lower Colorado River in Arizona, 13 concessionaires under permit to the Bureau of Land Management generate more than $7.5 million annually, with a major spinoff effect in the local economy (Bureau of Land Management, 1987).

B. Golden Gate National Recreation Area has contracts with ten primary concessionaires. Total 1988 gross revenues for these concessionaires were over $16 million, over 25 percent of which was spent on payroll (NPS, 1990).

Greenways are often major tourist attractions which generate expenditures on lodging, food, and recreation related services. Moreover, tourism is Maryland’s second largest and most stable industry, and is projected to become its largest.

A. A poll conducted by the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors found that natural beauty was the single most important criterion for tourists in selecting outdoor recreation sites (Scenic America, 1987). Maryland’s Department of Economic and Employment Development estimated the annual value of tourism and commercial activities directly related to the Chesapeake Bay was $31.6 billion in 1989 (DEED 1989).

B. The San Antonio Riverwalk is considered the anchor of the $1.2 billion tourist industry in San Antonio, Texas. A user survey concluded that the Riverwalk is the second most important tourist attraction in the state of Texas (NPS 1990).

C. The Governor’s Committee on the Environment reported in 1988 that the governors of five New England states officially recognized open space as a key element in the quality of life in their region. They credited that quality of life with bringing rapid economic growth and a multi-billion dollar tourism industry to the region (Governor’s Committee on the Environment, 1988).

Agency Expenditures
The agency responsible for managing a river, trail or greenway can help support local businesses by purchasing supplies and services. Jobs created by the managing agency may also help increase local employment opportunities.

Corporate Relocation Evidence shows that the quality of life of a community is an increasingly important factor in corporate relocation decisions. Greenways are often cited as important contributors to quality of life.
The quality of life in a community is an increasingly important factor in corporate relocation decisions; greenways are often cited as important contributors to quality of life and to the attractiveness of a community to which businesses are considering relocating.

A. An annual survey of chief executive officers conducted by Cushman and Wakefield in 1989 found that quality of life for employees was the third most important factor in locating a business (NPS, 1990).

B. St. Mary’s County, Maryland, has found over the last ten years that businesses which move to the county because of tax incentives tended to leave as soon as the incentives expire. However, businesses that move to the county because of its quality of life remain to become long term residents and taxpayers (NPS, 1990).

C. Site location teams for businesses considering San Antonio, Texas regularly visit the San Antonio Riverwalk. A location on the river-walk is considered very’desirable; A regional grocer, the HEB Company, relocated its corporate headquarters to a historic building oriented towards the river (NPS, 1990).

D. The Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress reports that a city’s quality of Life is more important than purely business- related factors when it comes to attracting new businesses, particularly in the high-tech and service industries (Scenic America, 1987).

Public Cost Reduction
The conservation of rivers, trails, and greenways can help local governments and other public agencies reduce costs resulting from flooding and other natural hazards.
While greenways have many economic benefits it is important to remember the intrinsic environmental and recreation value of preserving rivers, trails and other open space corridors. Greenways along rivers can help reduce the cost of repairing flood damage and improving water quality.

A In a study of major land uses in Culpepper County, Virginia, it was found that “for every dollar collected from farm/forest/open space, 19 cents is spent on services’ “(Vance and Larson, 1988).

B. In Yarmouth, Maine, an analysis of costs of providing municipal services to a specific parcel proposed for parks showed that the annual costs of those services exceeded revenues generated by taxes by $140,000 annually. This was compared to an annual cost of $76,000 over 20 years to purchase the property (World Wildlife Fund, 1992).

C. In Boulder, Colorado, the 1988 public cost for maintaining developed areas was estimated to be over $2,500 per acre. The cost for maintaining open space in the city was only $75 per acre, or less than three percent the cost of non-open space (Crain, 1988)

From the American Trails website:

The Town Branch Environment: An Initial Evaluation

In 2001, the Environmental Quality Committee of Town Branch Trail collected information about the condition of the environment of Town Branch. Our findings and conclusions are presented in an 18-page illustrated report: “The Town Branch Environment: An Initial Evaluation.” Among the report’s recommendations are trash cleanup, extensive streamside zones of native trees and other plants, public education, partnerships with other environmental organizations, and technical consultations on stream morphology and water quality issues.

Click this link to open the “The Town Branch Environment” in PDF format (2.4 megabytes).