Filling out trail user surveys on the Schuylkill River Trail.
Trail User Surveys in Pennsylvania
Years: 2006 to present
In 2006 Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) began conducting trail user surveys and economic impact analyses of trails through funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
These surveys utilized methodology previously tested on Pennsylvania trails. They were designed to monitor user characteristics and determine the economic impact of various trails throughout the state.
To date, studies have been conducted on the following trails in Pennsylvania:
Pine Creek Rail Trail (2006)
Self-mailing and postage-paid survey forms were available April through October 2006 at 10 official trailheads along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, and at many of the merchants who cater to trail users. Completed responses were mailed back to RTC. In all, 1,049 surveys were completed. Annual user visits were estimated at 138,277, with an economic impact of $6.8 million annually.
Perkiomen Trail (2008)
Survey forms were available at all official trailheads along the Perkiomen Trail and at merchants who cater to trail users. Completed responses were mailed back to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. In all, 694 surveys were completed. Annual user visits were estimated at 397,814, with an economic impact of $5.6 million dollars annually.
Schuylkill River Trail (2009)
The Schuylkill River Trail is a multi-use pathway that generally follows the course of the Schuylkill River from Pottsville to Philadelphia, Pa. The trail consists of sections of rail-trail and canal towpath, as well as small connectors that utilize shared road. The trail is a focal point of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area and has been constructed, as funding permits, by many municipalities and organizations that lie within the watershed. There are currently three separate segments totaling 56 miles of pathway that provide a substantive trail experience and are heavily used.
Beginning in May 2007, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area placed infrared counters at nine trailhead locations to measure movement and activity on the trail. Data from these counters was collected during the course of an entire year. Self-selecting survey forms were available at 21 trailheads along the Schuylkill River Trail during a period of eight months. In all, 1,223 completed survey forms are included in this study. Total annual user visits were estimated at 802,239, with an economic impact of $7.3 million annually.
Ghost Town Trail (2009)
The Ghost Town Trail is a multi-use pathway in Pennsylvania traversing 36 miles from Ebensburg in Cambria County to Saylor Park in Black Lick, Indiana County. Along its route, the trail passes through land originally developed by mining companies—first iron ore and later coal. The crushed-limestone trail follows the former right-of-way of the Ebensburg and Black Lick Railroad, running parallel to Blacklick Creek.
Survey forms were available at eight trailhead locations along the Ghost Town Trail. Completed responses were mailed back to RTC's Northeast Regional Office. In all, 441 surveys were completed. Data collected from four infrared counters positioned along the trail from the beginning of April through October of 2009 was analyzed and determined to represent an estimated 75,557 annual user visits, with an annual economic impact of $2.4 million.
Armstrong Trail (2010)
The Armstrong Trail is a multi-use, community-based trail that runs 34.8 miles in Pennsylvania from Ford City in Armstrong County to East Brady in Clarion County.
Survey forms were available at six locations along the Armstrong Trail between Ford City and Templeton from the beginning of May through October 2010. Completed responses were mailed back to RTC. In all, 296 surveys were completed. An analysis of the data accumulated from infrared counters located along the trail and the completed surveys received from users indicates an estimated 80,638 annual user visits to the Armstrong Trail, resulting in a total economic impact in 2010 of $897,442.
Lebanon Valley Rail Trail and Conewago Recreation Trail (2011)
The Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail and the Conewago Trail are one continuous trail maintained by two separate municipalities. The Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail is owned and maintained by the all-volunteer, nonprofit Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails. The Conewago Trail is owned and maintained by Lancaster County Parks and Recreation.
Survey forms were available at 11 locations along the yrails between Lebanon and Elizabethtown from the beginning of May through October 2011. Completed responses were mailed back to RTC and tallied by an independent consultant. In all, 563 completed survey forms are included in this analysis. An analysis of the data accumulated from infrared counters located along the trail and the completed surveys received from users indicates an estimated 125,244 annual user visits to the combined trails, resulting in a total economic impact in 2011 of $1,326,064.