The Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy (formally the Allegheny Trail Alliance) and Fourth Economy (an economic development consulting firm) deserve a standing ovation for their just released Economic Impact Report on the Great Allegheny Passage.
If you are interested in outdoor recreation, environmentally sustainable development and Trail Towns, I suggest you dig into their Impact Report. I have seen thousands of economy reports through my career, and I’ll tell you this one is one of the very best. All involved did an impressive job. Fourth Economy prepared a thoughtful report using a conservative approach, and presented it in an easy to read and linear fashion that increased the understanding of the data.
I particularly like the following text on page 33, which is:
“…a fairly high number. More rural outdoor trail systems — especially those whose primary users are backpackers and hikers (with higher rates of rustic camping, and fewer opportunities for local spending) — tend to have lower rates of spending per user visit. Although the GAP does offer a more rustic experience for some users, most GAP tourists, on the other hand, tend to be higher-income cyclists, with high rates of daily spending — especially overnight GAP users. They contribute substantially to local businesses, giving the GAP an especially high rate of spending per user.”
The statement above is the essence and impetus of why The Progress Fund implemented the Trail Town Program®…to build a network of high-quality businesses that would give high-income tourists multiple opportunities to pull out their wallets. Few people know of the economic impact studies back in the 1990’s done by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission that involved exit surveys of visitors to the newly opened National Park sites of Fort Necessity Battlefield and the Horseshoe Curve. Visitors, when questioned about their visits to the region, had one major complaint…not enough high-quality places to eat, sleep or shop. Those studies were the reason we started The Progress Fund and why I saw the need again when Linda McKenna Boxx mentioned similar complaints along the GAP. Her concept of Trail Towns is why we implemented the Trail Town Program®, to make it a reality.
So, fast forward to today…it is fantastic to see the economic impact generated by the GAP, which at one time far fewer people thought was possible. I am proud of The Progress Fund’s early commitment to building the towns along the GAP. Our investment is obvious by the many pictures of Trail Town businesses that are showcased in the report.