Surveying the Field
With each completed survey of trail users, our Northeast Regional Office
keeps developing an increasingly nuanced understanding of the economic
impact rail-trails have on the communities they pass through and connect.
In 2011, our work in the Northeast included a survey of the 34.8-mile
Armstrong Trail in Pennsylvania, funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Using infrared counters and other tools, they were
able to estimate the trail sees more than 80,000 users
a year—who spend $897,442 annually (including
$740,250 invested directly into the local economy).
These figures, among other findings from the
report, make abundantly clear that the initial
investment of acquiring and developing a rail-trail
pays for itself many times over in annual financial
impact—from trail users spending at local stores
and restaurants to staying overnight at nearby
accommodations. Rail-trails provide sustain-
able tourist income, and countless communities
around the country have found new commerce and vibrancy
from the dependable traffic of trail users.
Within the next year, our Northeast Regional Office will be publishing
additional surveys on the Sussex Branch Trail in New Jersey, and the Lebanon
Valley and Conewago Recreation trails in Pennsylvania.
Throughout 2010, we watched as thousands of new people each month
discovered and registered with our trail-finder website, TrailLink.com,
the most comprehensive source of free trail information online. We were
thrilled to see the same momentum carry us through 2011; in fact, the pace
accelerated. On the strength of our one-of-a-kind trail profiles—featuring
interactive GIS maps, trail descriptions and directions, user reviews and
photos, and so much more—we recorded a new monthly high in July with
more than 300,000 unique visitors.
To keep up with this exponential growth in demand, we are constantly
adding new miles of maps to our database. And in 2011, we reached a new
milestone by mapping more than 20,000 miles of trail around the country.
Just as important as the total mileage figure is the quality of the data. Our
in-house experts thoroughly screen all new routes before attaching the maps
to public trail records, ensuring the highest level of accuracy for visitors. The
result gives you the opportunity to pinpoint, within feet, the exact locations
of amenities such as trailheads, tunnels and restroom facilities. Whether you’re
The Rail-Trail Hall of Fame
Timed to coincide with our 25th anniversary
celebration, we formally welcomed the first
members of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
Added in 2011, the final five inductees
included the Paul Bunyan State Trail in Min-
nesota (February), the Wabash Trace Nature
Trail in Iowa (May), the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail
State Park in Kansas (August), the Springwa-
ter Corridor in Oregon (September) and the
High Line in New York (October 2011).
We will continue to induct one new rail-trail
into the Hall of Fame each year, with an-
nouncements and events timed for National
Trails Day, the first Saturday of June.