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Benefits of Greenways: A Pennsylvania Study

In Pennsylvania, greenways protect natural resources and rural legacy, provide communities with economic opportunities, conserve historic and cultural resources, provide opportunities for public recreation, health and fitness; enable outdoor educational opportunities, assist in the planning and shaping of communities, provide alternative and safe modes of transportation and part of the state’s tourism industry. For example, the Pittsburgh to Cumberland Trail attracts 500,000 visitors a year, has allowed restaurants and bed and breakfasts along the trail to flourish and grow, proximity to it has become a key factor in home sales in the area, and its revenues are far greater than its maintenance costs.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, nearly one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s tourists are traveling primarily for outdoor recreation activities. As an example of the economic impact of outdoor tourism on trails, the report highlights how the Pittsburgh to Cumberland Trail Corridor has encouraged economic growth. The Pittsburgh to Cumberland Trail is a 150-mile motorized vehicle free route that connects with the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath at Cumberland, Maryland to create a 334.5-mile traffic and motorized vehicle-free route between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

  • The trail has 500,000 visitors a year and continues to grow. Businesses along the trail, such as restaurants and bed and breakfasts have been able to flourish and grow because of this tourism.
  • According to Hank Parke, Executive Director for the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, “Several properties near the trail in Somerset County, that were once in dire disrepair have been purchased and renovated into bed and breakfast operations. There has also been a mushroom effect associated with the changes to these properties for adjacent and nearby land. Quite simply, these locations had no meaning before the trail went in.”
  • Spending in trail head communities by trail users in 1998 ranged from $5.4 to $14.1 million”. In contrast, maintaining the greenway costs, on average, approximately $1,000 per mile per year
  • Realtors have found that proximity to the trail is a key factor in home sales.