High Country Recreation is a local non-profit that works to promote recreation in our community. One of our major efforts is to work collaboratively with local groups (public and private) to support the creation of more trails and greenways. The Citizens Plan for Watauga and the Town of Boone Master Plan both identified trails and greenways as important pieces of any future planning. These plans support the finding of a Needs Assessment performed by Appalachian State in 2009 showing trails and greenways as a critical recreation need in Watauga County.
Specific research has shown that trails and greenways stimulate the local economy in three major ways. First, they attract and retain small businesses. Small businesses consider quality of life measures as one the most important aspects of their location decisions, especially those businesses that are not tied to a specific geographic location. (The Role of Quality of Life in Business (Re) Location Decisions, Crompton et al, 1999). Quality recreation options, including trails and greenways, are important for our community’s ability to attract and retain new businesses and workers. Second, they increase tourism dollars. A NC Department of Transportation study showed that the Outer Banks spent roughly 6 million dollars over 10 years on biking and walking paths and that this brings in about $60 million annually to the region. Third, they decrease health care costs. “Every $1 spent building biking trails and walking paths can save about $3 in medical expenses,” Brad Wilson, Blue Cross Blue Shield president and CEO (and ASU graduate), announced in 2012. His comments were based on research looking at the impact of bike and pedestrian trails on health care costs (Cost Benefit Analysis of Physical Activity Using Bike/Pedestrian Trails, Wang, et al, 2004). Lower health care costs reduce public expenditures on health and leave more money in the pockets of our local citizens. In addition to these benefits, trails and greenways enhance property values, provide alternative transportation options, create environmental benefits, and increase social connectedness.
We encourage our local leaders to creatively and collaboratively pursue national, state and local partnerships that would expand and enhance our local trails and greenways in order to promote economic growth in the High Country.
Scott St. Clair
President, High Country Recreation