The Value of Trails Study initiated by the Grand Valley Trails Alliance in November of 2013 was handed over to Colorado Mesa University which just completed and published their findings.
- This report evaluates the economic impact, willingness to pay, and user satisfaction of visitors in Mesa County for Bureau of Land Management trails, specifically the Kokopelli, 18 Road, and Lunch Loops trail systems. Results are based on intercept surveys given onsite at these trail locations.
- The economic impact of trail users on Gross Regional Product (GRP) is $14,586,336. The contribution to GRP represents the value of final goods and services, and is the proportion of total output that is paid to businesses and other entities in the form of employee compensation, proprietor income, taxes on production, and profits. GRP is the local equivalent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This number adjusts for leakages, supply chain effects, and multiplier effects. For comparison purposes, local Gross Regional Product is $5,429,000,000.1
- Visitor spending creates 345 jobs (part-time or full-time) in Mesa County through a combination of direct spending, supply chain effects, and multiplier effects.
- Total labor income (wages paid to workers) as a result of visiting trail user spending is $9,004,913.
Thanks to CMU
Our thanks to Colorado Mesa University for their diligent efforts to help the community better understand the importance of trails in the Grand Valley. We consider this report an excellent start to better management and directing important political and economic elements toward managing, maintaining, and building new trails and trail systems in the Grand Valley.
Value of Trails
Although the research for this study is important and useful, it is incomplete and its context must be understood. The data used in the analysis is very conservative and based off of numbers provided by the BLM that are a poor representation of the actual visitor numbers. The use of intercept surveys was an effective way of interacting with a representative sample of trail users, but it only happened during a limited time period.
Missing the Count
The visitor numbers are a result of poor count methodology based on too few counters placed in limited positions. The Lunch Loops counter is placed on the South side of the parking lot which used to be the primary way users accessed the trail system. With the development of the Three Sisters trails and the significantly increased use of the trail system, use of a Northern access means that possibly as many as half of the trail users at the Lunch Loops trailhead don’t get counted. And that is one of four trailheads that serve the Lunch Loops trail system. Finally, because of the Lunch Loops proximity to Grand Junction, a growing number of trail users are avoiding the congested trailheads and riding or running from home. The result is that the trail use numbers at the Lunch Loops trail system are arguably 50% of the actual use numbers.
Counts at the 18 Road trail and Kokopelli trail systems suffer from similar limitations. There are very limited counters at both trail systems that only collect use data on a subset of actual use. This is because of multiple trailheads and access points serving these large trail systems. Although neither Kokopelli or 18 Road trail systems are in as close proximity to communities as the Lunch Loops is to Grand Junction, they do have more disconnected trailheads and access points that dilute the accuracy of count data.
More Than Non-Motorized
This report is titled as “Grand Valley Public Trail Systems…”, but really only looks at three of more than seven trail systems in the Grand Valley and it only looks at non-motorized trails; primarily mountain biking trails. Although significant in their impact and importance, recent State data highlights the economic contributions of non-motorized vs motorized trail users and highlights that motorized trail users contribute approximately 3x what non-motorized trail users do.
The Complete Value of Trails
When we assess the more complete economic impact of trails in the Grand Valley based on information in this report, we see more than $50 million of annual economic impact to the GRP and more than 1,000 jobs directly related to the value of trails.
The complete published study is available for download as a PDF.