In addition to providing recreational opportunities, the Champlain Canalway Trail will provide a variety of other benefits to our communities, including economic, public health and transportation benefits. It can also have a positive effect on community pride and identity. Taken as a whole, the evidence about the benefits of trails and greenways is compelling, especially given the modest level of public investment needed compared to other undertakings with similar community goals.
Economic Benefits: The economic effects of trails and greenways are generally viewed in two ways. The first is the impact of expenditures by trail users, both direct and indirect; the second is the impact of trails upon property values near the trail.
Over the past two decades, many studies from all around the country have shown that day-users of trails spend between $1 to over $30 per visit. Overnight and multi-day trail users spend significantly more, including food, lodging and other items. Depending upon the locality, this can total $100 to $300 per day.
An economic impact study of the Erie Canalway Trail was conducted by Eric Mower and Associates in 2007. The study examined the results of previous trail traffic studies conducted at different locations along the Canalway Trail, and also examined daily expenditures by trail users. By combining the trail usage rates with the average daily expenditure per trail user (averaging $11.50 per day), the study estimated the annual revenue generated by Canalway Trail users statewide to be between $27 million and $28 million.
Snowmobiling is a popular activity in the Champlain Canalway Trail corridor, and it is an important source of business income. New York has more than 10,000 miles of snowmobile trails which host an estimated 70% of the state’s snowmobile activity. The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation estimated the total economic impact of snowmobiling during the 1996-97 season to be $476.2 million. By 2003, the snowmobiling industry was estimated to be contributing about $850 million statewide, including $217 million in direct expenditures.
When new trails are proposed, neighboring property owners often express understandable concern that their property values might be negatively impacted. This is an important issue that has also been studied by many around the country. Findings from these studies have been fairly consistent, that proximity to trails and greenways tend to bolster values of nearby property, and also make them easier to sell.
A study of communities along the Minuteman Trail in Massachusetts found that homes along the trail sold for a higher percentage of the asking price and sold faster than homes in the same towns that were farther away from the trail. A survey by the National Association of Homebuilders in 2000 took a different approach, asking prospective buyers what local amenities could influence them in their purchase of a new home. Proximity of greenway trails was listed by 36% of respondents, exceeded only by highway access.
Health Benefits: The Champlain Canalway Trail can play an integral role in improving the health and well being of the people living in the corridor by a providing close-to-home place for physical activity. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that providing access to places for physical activity, such as trails, increases the level of physical activity in a community.
Trails and greenways provide people of all ages with attractive, safe, accessible and low-cost places to walk, hike, jog, bicycle or in-line skate. And trails help people incorporate exercise into their daily routines by connecting them to places where they want or need to go. According to the American Heart Association, even a moderate walk can help a 150-pound person burn 240 calories per hour. The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (a brisk walk) five times per week.
Transportation / Livability Benefits: Greenways and trails often function as transportation corridors, and they can be a crucial element in a seamless local or regional multimodal transportation system. The ability to avoid streets and highways, and travel though natural areas on foot or by other non-motorized means, is a large factor in a community’s overall “livability.” In addition, many boaters traveling along the NYS Canal system carry bikes for landside transportation when they are docked. The Champlain Canalway Trail will enhance the non-motorized transportation facilities available to boaters.
Conservation and Environmental Benefits: Trail and greenway corridors can help preserve natural landscapes, and can also provide “green” corridors for various plant and animal communities, linking otherwise fragmented habitats. They can help protect the quality of wetland areas by providing vegetated buffers, and trees within the trail corridor can help improve air quality, especially in developed areas. In addition, trails can help bring people closer to the natural world with minimal environmental impact.
Historic Preservation and Community Identity: The Champlain Canalway Trail will help highlight and preserve a historically significant transportation corridor – the Old Champlain Canal. Many communities along New York’s Canalway Trail corridor (and elsewhere) have found that their trails become a source of community identity and pride. Trails that link or provide access to historic and cultural resources can help a community understand and better appreciate its own distinctive character. By “packaging” interesting places together, these trails may also attract visitors interested in seeking a variety of historic and recreational experiences. The Champlain Canalway corridor is rich in variety, ranging from individual canal locks and sections of waterways to the Saratoga National Historical Park, along with other important parks, historic sites and downtown areas.