New study: State’s trails are more than worth the investment
Research shows that our state trails boost the economy and improve hikers’ physical and mental health.
The author, Jessi Loerch, starts by writing:
Hikers have long known that time spent on trail is good for them. It’s great exercise, it boosts mental health and it’s a way to connect with the people you love.
A new study from 2019 shows that hiking is not only good for your health, it’s also good for local economies across the state.
“This study proves that getting out in nature is a more than a hobby,” said Jill Simmons, WTA’s chief executive officer. “It is good for our minds and bodies. And when you consider the economic and health benefits, it is clear we need to invest more in our trails and public lands.”
There are two very useful links at the end of the article for anyone wanting to understand more details about the economic values the research has attributed to trails:
More about the study
The new study, “Economic, Environmental, & Social Benefits of Recreational Trails in Washington State,” was released by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. The study was conducted by ECONorthwest in collaboration with Washington Trails Association and Washington Bikes. The study is in two parts: an economic analysis of the benefit of trails and a literature review of the health benefits of time on trail and in nature. See the full study at bit.ly/trails_study.
An interactive website
To make the study even more powerful for decision makers on a local level, this website shows the economic and health benefits of trails broken down by county and by legislative district: econw.shinyapps.io/econ_wa_rec_trails.
As this blog and the board is interested in promoting the value of trails to Snohomish County we were interested to note that the linked data from the study indicates that a comparison of Skagit County with Snohomish County shows Skagit county having almost double the net economic benefit of non-motorized recreation trails compared with Snohomish County, despite the fact that Snohomish County is 3 times larger. One indication of this difference gleaned from the data is that Skagit County shows a much larger number of people employed in jobs directly connected to recreation trails. This is probably related to the fact that Skagit County is a home for much of the staff for North Cascades National Park and Recreation Area. Snohomish County has a similar number of miles of trails compared with Skagit County, but a big proportion of the Snohomish County trails are US National Forest trails. The National Forest has a much smaller staff employed in connection with trail management than does the North Cascades National Park.
As advocates for non-motorized long distance trails, when TCSC (AKA Centennial Trail Coalition) board members have had the opportunity to meet with Snohomish County and Washington State representatives, one of our consistent points is to encourage our representatives and council members to support funding for on the ground trail workers, rangers and maintenance staff. This article shows that such funding reaches directly back to our local communities' economic and physical heath. Dollars spent on employing trail workers double their value directly to our people.
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