BENEFITS OF A TRAIL
In Schoharie County a trail could help create a corridor of economically viable village centers along the Schoharie Creek, enhancing the unique agricultural and historic character of the Valley. This trail would create connections between historic villages. These connections would promote economic growth by generating tourism opportunities throughout the Schoharie Valley. Other trails around the country and New York State serve as excellent case studies for this type of growth:
- Along New York’s Erie Canalway Trail, users were found on average to spend $158 per visit. Users traveling to the trail from outside of the region often included at least one overnight stay during their visit, increasing the average spending to $530 per person per visit. Most of this money is spent in the hospitality industry. Statewide, the trail brings in more than $55 million annually from 40,000 visitors outside the counties that the trail traverses. This comprises 2.5% of the 1.6 million visitors the trail accommodates every year (P&TNY, 2014).
- The Chautauqua Rails to Trails is a 30 mile shared-use trail system in western New York, which shares many similar characteristics to the Schoharie Creek Trail Concept. The Chautauqua trail is located almost entirely on private land, which has been voluntarily opened to the public by the land owners. According to a 2008 survey, average annual spending along the trail was $28 per person per trip. The 39% of surveyed users who were not local to the area brought in on average $50 per person per trip to local communities (NYSPR, 2010)
- The “Trail Towns” program developed for the Alleghany Passage rail trail takes a regional approach to economic development, providing assistance to eight communities along the trail in the form of access to loans for new businesses, marketing, real estate development, and entrepreneurial coaching (Gallagher & Camp, 2011). This program has yielded huge, direct economic impacts: trail users spend over $40 million annually, revitalizing many towns that had declined with the loss of mining and railroad activity. Since 2007, trail-related activities provide annual wages of $7.5 million every year, and 54 new or expanded businesses serving trail users have created 83 new jobs in eight small towns (RTC, 2014)
The proposed trail along the Schoharie Creek presents a unique opportunity to improve community health in Schoharie County:
- Currently, only 20% of adults get the recommended thirty minutes of physical activity per day. The CDC recommends building or enhancing trails, greenways, parks and recreational facilities to support walking and bicycling for recreation as a way to help residents increase physical activity levels and combat chronic disease.
- In dispersed rural areas such as Schoharie County, walking and biking to destinations is often difficult to achieve because residents live far from schools, work sites and other common destinations. This creates a need for environments that support active recreation, even if residents must drive to get to them (Hanson & Hartley, 2015).
- The elements of the built environment that are associated with increasing physical activity in rural areas are recreational facilities such as trails and parks (Frost et. al., 2010).
- Trails create healthy recreation and transportation opportunities by providing people of all ages with attractive, safe, accessible places to bike, walk, hike, run, or ski. In this way trails make it easier for people to engage in physical activity.
- High levels of stress are correlated with low rates of frustration tolerance, more frequent negative moods, more work absences, increased illness association, lower levels of residential and job satisfaction, high rates of hostility and anxiety, cognitive performance impairments, and decrements in overall life satisfaction (Novaco 2009).
- People with access to nature, recreational facilities, and active transportation facilities report higher levels of overall life satisfaction, more positive moods, higher levels of job satisfaction, and perform better on basic cognitive tests (Novaco 2009).
- Exposure to the natural environment through recreational facilities has positive effects on memory, attention span, concentration, impulse inhibition, and mood (Bratman 2012).
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