Why Trails?

Looking Glass Falls, Brevard, NC

Why are trails important for communities?

Trails and greenways provide numerous benefits to communities, not only recreational and environmental benefits, but also significant economic development, health, and transportation benefits. Trail also help create positive community pride and identity, with financial returns that far exceed public investments.

What are the economic benefits of trails?

With a high rate of return, investments in trails contribute significantly to local economies and tourism, particularly in rural areas, by creating desirable places for people to visit, live and work. Trails also create more attractive, safer communities, increase property values and tax revenues, enhance marketability, and increase home sales or leases faster than conventional development. Every $1.00 of trail construction returns $1.72 annually from local businesses. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that for every $98,000 in transportation related construction spending, there is one short-term job created (short-term defined as lasting for one year).

Art-to-Heart Trail, Raleigh NC. Image by NCDOT.

An NC DOT study of a one-time $26.7 million investment in four NC shared-use paths created the following economic impacts:

$19.4 million

Estimated ANNUAL sales revenue at local businesses along the four greenways

$25.7 million

Estimated ANNUAL savings due to more physical activity, less pollution and congestions, and fewer traffic injuries from greenway use

$48.7 million

Estimated business revenue from greenway construction


Jobs are supported ANNUALLY through greenway construction

"Outdoor Recreation is a $28 Billion Industry in North Carolina. Our greenways and blueways are the infrastructure that supports that industry. Outdoor recreation is going to play a huge role in the COVID recovery process. There is no question that a project like this is great for the health of our residents and the health of our economy."
Amy Allison
Director of the NC Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry

What are the health benefits of trails?

Trails and greenways are accessible, free and safe healthy recreation amenities for all ages to cycle, walk, hike, jog, ride, paddle, or skate. Trails make it easy for people to incorporate exercise into their daily routines by connecting them with places they want or need to go. Communities that encourage physical activity by making use of trails and greenways can see a significant positive impact on public health and wellness.


A 2017 study by the East Coast Greenway Alliance of 70 miles of their route in the Triangle region produced the following health benefits:









South Tar River Greenway
Greenville, NC

Image by Alta

What are the transportation benefits of trails?

Greenways and trails can function as alternative transportation corridors, serving as an important part of an urban and/or regional multi-modal transportation system. The ability to avoid congested streets and highways, and travel through natural areas on foot or by non-motorized means, is a large factor in a community’s “livability”, as well as safety. There are an estimated 193 bicyclists and pedestrians killed each year in North Carolina (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2017). Off-road greenways reduce injury rates by 60% (Teschke, Kay. “Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists”. (2012). American Public Health Association).

What are the environmental benefits of trails?

Typically linear by design, greenways protect important habitat and provide corridors for people and wildlife. They also help improve air and water quality. By protecting land along rivers and streams, greenways prevent soil erosion and filter pollution caused by agricultural and road runoff. Greenways can serve as natural floodplains. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flooding causes over $1 billion in property damages every year. By restoring developed floodplains to their natural state, many riverside communities are preventing potential flood damage. Finally, trails and greenways are hands-on environmental classrooms. People of all ages can see for themselves the precious and intriguing natural world from which they often feel so far removed.

Yadkin River Greenway. Image by Yadkin River Greenway Council.

Why Now?

NC communities need lasting investments. We want to be ready to tap into federal green infrastructure stimulus funding opportunities and put these dollars to work in rural and urban areas alike, centered on trails as a unifying infrastructure. No other single type of investment impacts as many aspects of our lives, including health, safety, mobility, recreation, environment, and economic development. Now is the time to make an investment that will connect our communities and benefit North Carolinians for generations to come.

Neuse River Greenway
Raleigh, NC