Friday, November 23, 2012

The Chester Valley Trail Funding Project is proud to announce that it has been selected for membership in THE CIRCUIT COALITION.

The Circuit Coalition is a collaboration of non-profit organizations, foundations, and agencies working to advance completion of a connected network of trails – The Circuit – in the Greater Philadelphia region.

The Circuit Coalition's goal is to raise the profile of bicycle/pedestrian trails and their public benefits so that building The Circuit becomes a significant regional priority.

When we connect the 750 miles of The Circuit, Greater Philadelphia will have a trail network unlike any other in the country -- connecting the urban, suburban and rural communities of the fifth largest metropolitan region in the US. The Circuit will make our region stronger by providing a place for healthy transportation and recreation, connecting our communities to green space, and making our neighborhoods more attractive places to live and work.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Path To Community

We've discussed trail benefits relating to real property values, resident expenditures, commercial benefits, tourism and, finally, benefits relating to health.  All of these benefits have been measured, codified, and have been the subject of many articles and studies.  One final benefit I’d like to review here though, has not been talked about that much but may be, in the final analysis, the most important of all: a path to a greater sense of community.

Being connected to other people in our community is more and more difficult and unlikely in these days of being insulated by cars, gated communities and busier and busier schedules.  Between the hectic pace of our lives and our increased mobility, it can be difficult for communities to come together in any meaningful way; in other words, there is no ordinary way to meet, greet and “commune” with ones neighbors.  Yet being connected to our neighbors can make us feel happier, safer and even healthier.  It can also lead to better functioning governments and schools. 

Trails can be the viable solution to bringing together people who are living disparate lives.  As people spend more time on a nearby trail, they meet neighbors, discover shared interests and make new friends.  New clubs form to enjoy or care for the trail.  Employees of businesses near trails have the chance to spend a lunch break walking together, ultimately improving teamwork. 

Many have suggested that having a greater sense of community can be one of the solutions to many of modern society’s ills.  Trails can lead us to that greater sense of community.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Health - The Most Important Benefit?

When I started this blog about the Chester Valley Trail and its economic importance, I really did not anticipate that one of the most important aspects of a facility like the Trail would be the economics of health.  The more I have looked into it, the more I realize that trails like the Chester Valley Trail provide value to the community in health terms that rival and even surpass those of other, more commonly referenced, benefits. 
It is for this reason, therefore, that the next few editions of this blog about the Chester Valley Trail Funding Project will concentrate on health and how the Chester Valley Trail will relate to it and benefit Chester County.  The first edition, this one, will deal with walking the Trail rather than biking and how “A Step In the Right Direction”[1] will be of benefit to us all.
It is an important fact that, once a trail is in place within a community, the more it encourages those who might not ordinarily do an activity like walking or biking to do it.  The trail provides a safe, easy and focused place to start active recreation; it beckons the sedate person to use it and become active. 
So, what happens when this ordinarily sedate person uses the Trail to do something like walking?  The list of benefits will surprise you:
           ·          Lose weight – “You won’t find a better way to lose weight than walking”[2]
           ·          Prevent heart disease – Those who do not exercise are twice as likely to have coronary heart disease[3]
           ·          Decrease hypertension – Walking lowers blood pressure[4] and correlates with blood pressure improvement.[5]
           ·          Improve mental health – Walking releases endorphins which are natural tranquilizers and serve to reduce anxiety.[6]
           ·          Slow the aging process – An inactive lifestyle accelerates aging while those who exercise age less rapidly[7]
           ·          Prevent Osteoporosis – “ . . .walking help[s] reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis . . .”[8]
           ·          Prevent and control diabetes – Walking can help prevent diabetes and . . . protect against the degenerative effects of diabetes.[9]
           ·          Improve arthritis – Most people with arthritis can benefit from a regular exercise program.[10]
           ·          Relieve back pain -  Walking prevents and cures the most common kinds of muscular backache, and even some kinds[with] a disk problem[11]
           ·          Improves air quality – A real stretch you say?  Not so: walking can replace short-distance motor vehicle trips, which are the least fuel-efficient and generate the most pollution per mile traveled.[12]

I saved the best for last, though.  “Each time you go outside and walk . . . you will come home feeling better than you did when you left.  Your body will feel better. Your head will feel clearer, and your stress level will have decreased. . . . As you notice improvements in your body and state of mind, you may also want to start eating healthy foods . . . which will encourage you to continue your new healthy habits.”[13]

 Of all the benefits, economic or otherwise, it seems to me that the health benefits of having a vibrant, complete and, yes, healthy Chester Valley Trail are the most important.  More to come on the health benefits of the Chester Valley Trail in future posts; stay tuned.

[1] A Step In The Right Direction, The Health Benefits of Hiking and Trails by the American Hiking Society
[2] Walking for Health, Walking for a Healthy Heart, by the American Heart Association
[3] Edmund Burke, Ph.D., Benefits of Bicycling and Walking to Health (for FHWA), Washington, DC, 1992, p10
[4] Alfred A. Bove, Active Control of Hypertension, The Physician and Sports Medicine, Vol. 26, No. 4,, 1998
[5] Ibid
[6] Bricklin and Spilner, p. 84
[7] Ibid, p. 3
[8] A Step In The Right Direction, Ibid
[9] Bricklin and Spilner, p. 38
[10] Bricklin and Spilner, p. 8
[11] A Step In The Right Direction, Ibid
[12] Burke, p 4
[13] A Step In The Right Direction, Ibid

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that communities build or enhance infrastructures to support more walking and bicycling that will counteract the trends toward sedentary lifestyles mentioned in the last post.  As a consequence, the County Health Department (CCHD) and Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC) are actively developing plans involving the seven municipalities surrounding West Chester, Downingtown and Exton that plan specifically for trails connecting these communities (Central Chester County Bike and Pedestrian Plan; See  

These plans, it is hoped, will become part of each municipalities' planning and zoning regulations supporting trails whenever possible.  The Chester Valley Trail will be a vital part of all these plans. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The last of the economic issues I will address at this point is the one relating to health, or perhaps the lack of it by many Americans who have become sedentary.  Trails have an impact on this issue, both nationally and locally.  I will address the national economic impact of health issues first.

Costs to businesses and individuals of a sedentary lifestyle are, unfortunately, well documented.  The medical costs paid by third-party payers for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said that “Obesity is common, serious and costly, that more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese, and that obesity-related conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer are costing Americans an estimated $147 billion.  (

These costs are avoidable by better dietary habits and exercising more.  Trails provide residents with an easy way to integrate exercise into their lives and, when that happens, money is saved by individuals, employers and businesses, improving not just our bottom lines but our waistlines, too.

Outdoor exercise improves our health and wellbeing and reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity. Improved health prevents nearly $800 million in medical care costs annually.  The economic value increases to nearly $1.3 billion in savings when added to avoided workers’ compensation costs, and costs related to lost productivity in addition to direct use benefits and avoided medical care costs. 

Monday, August 6, 2012


The potential of use of the Chester Valley Trail by tourists should not be overlooked.  The Chester Valley Trail, linking central Chester County to Montgomery County and the commercial shopping hub of King of Prussia to the Northeast, is in a unique position to draw outsiders into the Chester County area.

This can impact the Chester County economic environment in a number of ways: “By providing a trail that attracts residential and business investment, local governments should be able to collect additional tax revenues without making the difficult choice of raising tax rates. Furthermore, in an area that has limited trails, like Chester County, trail implementation should attract residents, businesses and trail users from outside the area. Trails can provide an increase in the number of visitors that directly impacts the local economies. The increase in visitors consequently increases the likelihood of money spent in that location . . . . The attraction of people to an area (potential customers) in turn increases the visibility of local businesses and communities, allowing opportunities for businesses to sponsor events while gaining business exposure.”*
*“Trails and Revitalization: A Study of the Economics Associated With Public Trails” from a presentation by Robert J. Schoutens at the 2006 National Trails Symposium in the Quad Cities of IA and IL 

We have a lot to gain from the potential economic effect of tourism into Chester County that is generated by use of the Chester Valley Trail.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Trails serve not only the general public with opportunities for recreation, they provide a unique opportunity for commercial activities as well.  The entity regulating the trail, in our case the government of Chester County, has the ability to gain revenue from on-site concessions, special permittees, partnerships between government and other groups and with special events.  

What kind of special events you say?  How about a Chester Valley Trail Day in which the Trail is specially set up for bikers going from one end to the other with businesses, charities and service organizations lining the trail to publicize themselves to everyone along the way?  That's just one example.

What has proven truly remarkable in most trail locations is that compatible business ventures have inevitably sprung up along the trail to provide a wide range of visitor services and improvements for trails, often improving the local economy and providing jobs not there before the trail appeared.

In the final analysis, though, how much and what type of benefits a trail might provide depends on the type of trail.  Rural trails have different impacts than do urban trails.  The most economic benefit is realized from trails, like the Chester Valley Trail, that span both urban and rural settings.  Our trail is truly an economic engine waiting to start serving the central Chester County area.