Monday, April 2, 2012


I wrote earlier (“History and Direction of the Project”) that I’m meeting with various business and community leaders here in Chester County to discuss the importance of the Chester Valley Trail to them. One business leader I met with asked me to “help him sell” the Chester Valley Trail to his group by showing what the economic potential of the Trail is.  That is a logical place to start the subject of our next topic: What is the economic potential of the Chester Valley Trail?

To answer the question I had to wade through a lot of studies, some of which seemed biased to me, frankly. They were written by authors advocating for trails because it benefited the group they worked for, for instance. Some were subjective and lacked quantitative measurement: “Better quality of life through exercise by using trails” and that sort of thing. While those points of view might be true, what I wanted was measurement of the benefits to a community of a trail and preferably in dollars and cents. Those studies are out there and here’s what I found:
First, there’s no question that trails provide economic benefits to communities; all the studies agreed on that, biased or not. The essence of those studies basically divided the economic benefits of trails into these groups:
  • Real Property Values
  • Expenditures by Residents
  • Commercial Uses
  • Tourism
How much and what type of benefits a trail might provide depends on the type of trail it is.  Is it a trail through a rural part of the country that connects towns by traveling through open areas and wilderness where the trail itself is a tourist destination?  Or is it a trail through a more urban area that is used mostly by local residents and commuters with only some travelers making the trail a destination? Can a trail combine both types of rural and urban trail?

I’m going to provide more detail on each of these benefits in future posts on this blog.  I’m going to cite only the most objective studies I’ve found and provide detail on what we might expect from the Chester Valley Trail as it connects King of Prussia and Valley Forge with the Downingtown area.  In short, I’m going to give business and community leaders the sales tools they need to sell the Chester Valley Trail to their groups so that, together, we can build a better Chester Valley Trail and do it with more citizen and community support.