Building trails, building communities

Trails benefit communities, economies, and people
You already know that including a trail in your next community park makes your project more attractive to visitors of all ages. But did you know your trail can also benefit the surrounding community? When you include a trail in your next project, you provide benefits to your community’s economy, public health, and sense of pride.

1. Trails create economic growth
According to American Trails, public trails have been consistently shown to increase property values. This is true of properties close to parks and trails, but also for the whole community. A survey of recent homebuyers (National Association of Homebuilders and National Association of Realtors) found that walking/jogging and bike trails were second from the top of a list of what people consider most important when buying a home.

Trails can also directly increase jobs in a community. Increased trail traffic, especially in city or region-wide trail systems, can create tourism jobs that serve trail-users such as cafes or bike shops. Communities with public trails are also more attractive to companies looking for new locations: benefits like trails attract and help retain employees.

2. Trails create healthier communities
Public health is a complex balance, but one of the key factors to encouraging healthy populations is encouraging exercise. Even low impact activities like walking have been linked to lower risks of heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity, and increased strength and mental well-being. Many people would like to travel public trails, but their communities’ may lack the amenity. By including a trail in your next community project, you’re creating another way your community members can stay healthy.

The more accessible your trail, the more health benefits you will create. Even-surfaced, easy to use trails are more attractive to families and less-mobile citizens. A strong, well-built trail that can support bikes will further increase public health benefits. Paths that are well-integrated with the community can also promote walking and biking for transportation. Increasing alternative commuting to school and work decreases air pollution from cars, creating healthier air quality for your entire community.

3. Trails promote community pride

Public trails benefit communities by creating a space where people from all demographics are welcome. An attractive and well-constructed trail is a signal to community-members that your community values public spaces. Trails are not only open to all community members, but also create interactions between community members that may not normally interact.

You can also enhance community benefits by including the community in your trail design process. Asking stakeholders which needs they want a trail to address, where they want the trail to go, how they want the trail to integrate with nature, and other questions helps community members take ownership of the trail and feel committed to its success.