The D & L Trail, a 165-mile rail-trail through eastern Pennsylvania, generates an annual economic impact of more than $19 million in the communities it passes through. That is the finding of our recently published D & L Trail user survey and economic impact analysis.
The D & L Trail is the backbone of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (DLNHC), a five county region of Pennsylvania that traverses the historic Delaware and Lehigh Canals that was designated a National Heritage Area by Congress in 1988. The area is managed by the nonprofit DLNHC organization, a joint effort of private groups, citizens, county and municipal governments, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.
This latest survey is the seventh in a series of RTC reports documenting the economic impact of rail-trails in the Northeast. That work began in 2006 when my colleague here at RTC, Carl Knoch, developed a methodology for collecting data from trail users and extrapolating a statement of estimated annual impact.
Since then, RTC has been able to apply the methodology to individual trails and develop individualized reports for the trail managers in the area. These reports become very succinct tools for trail managers, to solicit continued support for the trail from community leadership. Of course, each trail is unique; some bring in dollars on a daily basis while others may realize a seasonal impact. Regardless, every trail surveyed can document a positive economic impact, with trail users spending money in the communities that they are visiting.
The D & L Trail surveys calculated an estimated 282,796 annual user visits to the trail, resulting in a total economic impact in 2012 of $19,075,921. Of this, $16,358,201 is estimated to have been directly injected into the local economy. The complete D & L study, which can be read and downloaded here, also recorded visitation and spending data in the trail's various regions, and gathered trail user comments on why they were visiting the trail and aspects for possible improvement.