A new analysis by Headwaters Economics in partnership with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reveals that the Great American Rail-Trail®—the nation’s first cross-country multiuse trail—will have a significant economic impact on the communities it serves due to the trail’s potential to bring visitors, businesses, spending, jobs, income and tax revenue to the communities along the 3,700-mile route.

The Great American Rail-Trail could contribute $161 million or more to the GDP, but only with the investment and support of communities that host the trail. This webinar discusses the economic impact analysis and spotlights a Great American Rail-Trail host community—Council Bluffs, Iowa—as a case study on leveraging trail-oriented development as part of a wider economic development strategy for attracting and retaining residents and businesses.


  • Liz Thorstensen, Vice President of Trail Development, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
  • Megan Lawson, PhD, Economist, Headwaters Economics
  • Brandon Garrett, Chief of Staff, City of Council Bluffs, Iowa
  • Moderator: Kevin Belanger, Project Manager, Great American Rail-Trail, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Related Links


Learn more about the Great American Rail-Trail on our website.