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Economic Benefits

The Outdoor Recreation Economy
Outdoor recreation is essential to the American economy. Every year, Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation — on gear, vehicles, trips, travel-related expenses and more. This creates jobs, supports communities, generates tax revenue and helps drive the economy. Throughout America, people recognize that outdoor recreation and open spaces attract and sustain families and businesses, create healthy communities and foster a high quality of life.

In Delaware
Outdoor Recreation Generates...
in consumer
Delaware jobs
in wages
and saleries
in state and local
tax revenue

Communities around the country know that trails are good for business. They have reaped the rewards as trail adventurers rely on small businesses, restaurants, local stores, and lodging providers. Study after study demonstrates the many economic benefits that come with trail development. Research has shown that a trail can bring at least $1 million annually to a community, depending on how well the town embraces trails.

Nationally, trail-related expenditures range from $1 to $75 per day, depending on the trail mileage covered. For example, on the Junction & Breakwater Trail, located between Lewes and Rehoboth, 49 percent of the users reported that their purchases of a bike, bike supplies, footwear or clothing were influenced by their trail use. And, 53 percent said they purchased soft goods in conjunction with a J&B Trail trip. This is good news for local businesses.

A study of the basic economic impacts and trail users of the Junction and Breakwater Trail is now available. The 6-mile long J&B Trail lies between Lewes and Rehoboth. A survey of trail users was conducted during the peak visitor season - May 1 through August 31, 2011 gleaned information on trail-related expenditures, usage patterns and trail user information. Key findings: The trail directly generated an estimated $114,167 from hard goods and an estimated $390,645 from soft goods during the peak season.
  • 49.6 % of survey participants reported that they had purchased at least one hard good item (bike, walking shoes). Their purchases directly related to trail use average $476.63/person annually.

  • 53% of survey participants reported that they had purchased at least one soft good (food, beverage). Their purchases averaged $18.34 in conjunction with their most recent use of the J&B Trail.

  • 61.5% reported ages between 46 and 65. 11 percent reported being 65 or older, 27.5 percent under 46.

  • 70% reported using the trail during both the weekend and weekdays.

  • Trail trips ranged from 30 minutes and 2 hours.

  • The average user bikes to the trail.

  • About 81% of trail users are bicyclists with the remainder of users split between joggers (10.8%) and walkers (7.9 %). Less than 24 percent of survey participants reported to driving to the trail.

  • The average trail user makes an estimated 13.8 trips to the trail during the course of the year.

For more information please see the Junction and Breakwater Trail 2011 Trail Use Study and Economic Analysis
Public Health Benefits

Childhood obesity is an epidemic nationally and in Delaware. Health data from 2008 reveal that nearly 38 percent of children ages two to 17 in Delaware are overweight or obese. And overweight children often grow into overweight adults, greatly increasing healthcare costs and draining society of healthy active adults. According to the newly released CDC data, part of the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, 28.8% of Delaware adults are obese.  Delaware ranks as the 19th most obese state in the U.S.

Trails and pathways help children and families lead physically active and healthy lifestyles. Research shows that children who ride bikes regularly are less likely to grow into overweight adults. Kids who can safely walk or ride a bike to school are less likely to be obese. Adults who can walk or ride a bike to work have better weight, blood pressure and insulin levels.

Recreational Benefits

Statewide surveys have found that more than 90 percent of Delawareans consider outdoor recreation important to their health, mental well-being and quality of life. Three quarters of Delaware residents said walking and jogging are activities that they regularly undertake. More than half of those surveyed say they are bike-riders.

However, the 2011 Outdoor Recreation Public Opinion Survey found that Delawareans are not walking, biking, or jogging as much as they would like to because they fear that roads are too dangerous and because community recreation facilities are often too far away.

When Delawareans were asked what would encourage more participation in outdoor recreation, the overwhelming response was “more outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities that are closer to home.”

A revitalized, expanded and inter-connected network of off-road trails and pathways will safely link more Delawareans to parks, community sites, schools and businesses and will enable them to increasingly adopt a more healthy, active lifestyle.
Environmental Benefits

Walking and biking produce no carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. In short, a network of pathways and trails will help improve air quality.

According to the EPA, for every mile pedaled rather than driven, we avoid adding nearly one pound of carbon dioxide to our air. And walking and biking save gas and reduce overall traffic congestion.

While many of the threats to Delaware’s air quality come from out of state – power plants and heavy traffic in other states – investment in recreational trails and shared use pathways provides opportunities to reduce overall air pollution and earn Delaware credits under the Clean Air Act.

And, of course, the Trails and Pathways Initiative provides opportunities for visitors and Delawareans to experience and enjoy the State’s wildlife, wetlands, forests, streams and rivers without impact on the environment.

Photos courtesy of Delaware State Parks