This manual helps the reader implement a trail user survey and determine the economic impact a trail has on local communities. It discusses how to:
- Establish project goals: Typical goals are determining trail use characteristics (reasons for trail visits, trail activities, times of visits), trail user demographics, trail users’ perceptions of the trail, and spending related to trail activities.
- Determine who to interview: This is most often trail users, but can also include adjacent business and property owners.
- Choose a data collection methodology (leave questionnaires to be returned to a drop box or by mail, in person surveys)
- Create a questionnaire: Carefully choose questions that will help achieve the goal. Questions should be close ended to aid in analysis and should not take up more than one side of one page. The more difficult questions to answer should be at the end. Four sample questionnaires are included.
- Collect and analyze data: a template for analyzing the data in Microsoft Excel is provided. Economic impacts are most useful when presented as spending by all trail users for a year. For this, trail use counts (by volunteers placed at specific points on a trail or by infrared counters) are essential. Three categories accurately reflect trail users spending associated with trail used; hard goods (e.g. bikes and clothing) purchased over the past 12 months, soft goods (consumables such as meals and snacks) purchased on the most recent trail visit, and overnight accommodations.
- Produce a report: At a minimum, reports should include an executive summary and tables or graphs containing the responses to each question.