The Impact of Rail-Trails: a study of users and nearby property owners from three trails


This Impacts of Rail-Trails study was the first extensive study to examine the benefits and impacts of rail-trails and the first, to our knowledge, to systematically examine both the trail users and nearby property owners of the same trails. It was a cooperative effort of the National Park Service and Penn State University carried out in 1990 and 1991. It's purpose was to furnish information to assist in the planning, development, and management of rail-trails, public recreation trails constructed on the beds of unused railroads rights-of-way. The study's objectives were to: 1) Explore the benefits of rail-trails to their surrounding communities and measure the total direct economic impact of trail use; 2) Examine what effects rail-trails have on adjacent and nearby property values; 3) Determine the types and extent of trail-related problems, if any, experienced by trail neighbors; and 4) Develop a profile of rail-trail users.

This report summarizes the study's methods and findings. A sample of three diverse rail-trails from across the U.S. was studied: The Heritage Trail, a 26-mile trail surfaced in crushed limestone which traverses rural farmland in eastern Iowa; the St. Marks Trail, a 16-mile paved trail beginning in the outskirts of Tallahassee, Florida and passing through small communities and forests nearly to the Gulf of Mexico; and the Lafayette/Moraga Trail, a 7.6-mile paved trail 25 miles east of San Francisco, California which travels almost exclusively through developed suburban areas.

Read the entire study on the Bruce Freeman Rail-Trail website.