Trail Usage and its Economic Impact

Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events, Tactical Urbanism

Many of us have probably used a trail at some point in our lives. It’s a pretty simple concept—getting from point A to point B using a safe and designated place to travel besides a road designed for automobiles. They vary in size, location, purpose, and what kinds of services they connect from community to community as well as in their rates of success. Measuring success can be tricky, though, and can include anything from increased property values, to the amount of people using the trail, to economic development, to increased tourism, etc.

Starting yesterday, there is a study being conducted throughout Indiana trails by the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands, to “gather data on health factors related to trail use and their economic impact” (Source). Trails are something which many communities are interested in as placemaking efforts and something residents can usually support because of the beautification impacts on a community and the accessibility of usage for them. Studying trails around Indiana, though, and correlating them directly to economic development and an increase in usage would help convince other communities and their residents that trails are worthwhile investments. Trails must be planned and created intentionally to leverage support and achieve the desired outcomes.

The trails which are going to be studied are the:

  • Nickel Plate Trail (Peru)
  • Rivergreenway (Fort Wayne)
  • Erie Lackawanna Trail (Northwest Indiana)
  • Pumpkinvine Nature Trail (Elkhart and LaGrange counties)
  • Monon Trail (Indianapolis and Carmel)
  • Cardinal Greenway (Marion to Muncie to Richmond)
  • Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage (Evansville)
  • People Trail (Columbus) and
  • B-Line Trail (Bloomington)

 

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The Nickel Plate Trail in Peru, IN, has a bridge over the Wabash River. Source: railstotrails.org

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The B-Line Trail includes this striking blue arch over part of the trail. Source: heraldtimesonline.com

 

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is one example which is brought up in many discussions about the economic impact of trails in cities. The number which was released in the summer of 2015 was that over the 8 miles of trails from 2008-2015, “property assessment within approximately one block of the eight mile trail have increased 148%…an increase of $1 billion in assessed property value” (Source). It is slightly different since it is in the heart of the state capital and a state of the art trail, but the number is astonishing and should peak other city’s interests as to what they can do with trails in their own communities.

Connecting points of interest is a very important aspect of community trails: ones which do not connect anchor sites such as restaurants, cultural areas, retail, universities, etc., even if they are exceptionally well-done, will not attract high amounts of users like trails which connect anchor sites such as restaurants, cultural areas, retail, universities, etc. Trails can also become places of culture and art themselves, increasing the number of people who want to be there like on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail where there are numerous works of art which encourage people to stop and spend time admiring them.

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The Glick Peace Walk along the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis encourages people to take their time and enjoy the trail. Source

The Institute is planning on taking data four times for a week at a time in April, June, August, and October this year. Using surveys from “trail users, a control group of non-trail users and nearby property owners” as well as trail counters, the Institute will be able to inform “future trail development, operations and maintenance efforts” (Source).

This study may be able to help communities all over Indiana and surrounding states put their trails to better use and create places people want to be in as well as leveraging economic development dollars for the surrounding businesses in the area and the overall health of the community.

Main Photo Source: Seattle Department of Transportation

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Creatively Incorporating our Waterways

Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events, Placemaking Resources

“Creative Placemaking is generally understood as the use of arts and culture by diverse partners to strategically shape the physical and social character of a place in order to spur economic development, promote enduring social change, and improve the physical environment.” ROW.

 

Do waterways fit into this definition? Can water be creatively dealt with and shape a space or promote social change? Waterways are an incredibly important part of many Indiana cities and towns for recreational purposes, tourism, sources of water, aesthetics, wildlife habitat, fishing, economic development and a plethora of other reasons. They are also public spaces and provide places for people to gather. A lot of local organizations around the state are currently thinking about their waterways and how to re-energize, reconnect, reclaim, and reinvest in them for the betterment of the public and nature.

 

Reconnecting to our Waterways (ROW) is a “grassroots initiative designed to reclaim the benefits of Indianapolis’ waterways; to provide opportunities for physical, human, and economic development. It’s about helping neighbors strengthen waterways, and in turn, helping waterways strengthen neighborhoods” ROW.

 

Reconnecting to our Waterways been around since 2012 and focus on the main waterways in Indianapolis including:

Fall Creek

Pleasant Run

Central Canal

Little Eagle Creek

Pogue’s Run

White River

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ROW has identified different phases of improving the waterways around Indianapolis. Source. 

They have partnered with an incredible amount of state and local organizations: public, private, and non-profit, to help further goals of aesthetics, connectivity, economics, education, ecology, well-being, and more.

But, they also include creative placemaking in their initiatives to improve Indianapolis’ waterways! This group and its leaders encourage local artists and residents in different parts of the city to enhance the waterways which are so integral to the city and re-imagine them in order to get other residents and visitors to see them in a new, more positive light. Enhancing views of the waterways, removing invasive plant species, including art along trails and the waterways, gathering resident input, restoring bridges, planning for pop-up art and community events, and everything in between has been accomplished around these waterways, spurred on by ROW and pushed through by the residents who often become very excited and extremely passionate about reconnecting with their long lost public spaces.

This kind of work is possible in any community which is looking for a new way to engage residents, clean up waterways, reclaim public space, enhance the arts scene, improve economic development, and many more possibilities, some of which may be unique to your community! And while the improvement of each waterway in separate Indiana communities may seem like an isolated improvement, they have a multiplying effect, as they will subsequently improve the waterways in other, connected communities!

ROW has put on creative placemaking workshops, some of which are available on their website, here  as well as a document which explains creative placemaking more in depth.

If you are interested in waterways, the health of Indianapolis, engaging with your neighborhood, or creative placemaking, they also have monthly meetings focused around each of their waterways as well as public events at different library branches called Art + Science Brainstorms. Find a way to get involved and make a difference for Indianapolis or through your own communities and waterways around Indiana!

Main Image Source: Indiana Public Media