100-mile trail from Austin to San Antonio could generate $ 55 million in profits

A 100-mile Alamo to Capitol Hill trail system project could generate more than $ 55 million in economic, health and other benefits per year, according to a recent report released by the Great Springs Project. The project envisions trails crossing protected land and the Edwards Aquifer to connect four iconic Texas springs: Barton, San Marcos, Comal, and San Antonio Springs.

Although the final routes of the trails are yet to be determined by a trail map, which is expected to be completed by December of this year, the report uses a best estimate of these routes based on sources, existing trails and plans. of local trails.

“This report is one of the first steps in the trail plan,” says Emma Lindrose-Siegel, Development Manager for the Great Springs Project. “Part of it was being able to explain why this work is valuable, highlight the benefits of the trail itself and the goal of conserving 50,000 acres of land.”

The analysis estimated the number of bicycle and foot trips on the trail network, the corresponding reduction in vehicle trips and vehicle kilometers traveled, the potential benefits that would result from building the entire trail network. trails and ecosystem services associated with land conservation along the trail. corridor.

“Trails make us healthier, and access to the outdoors is one reason people want to live here,” says Lindrose-Siegel. “We wanted to quantify this for the community and our stakeholders. “

The estimated economic benefits total $ 23.3 million, including the estimated spending on goods, services and accommodation for non-local visitors to the trail. The $ 11.4 million transportation benefits include fewer kilometers traveled by vehicles and the associated reduction in congestion, collisions, road maintenance costs and vehicle emissions. The estimated health benefits of $ 1.8 million take into account the increase in physical activity and the resulting decrease in health care costs. The benefits of ecosystem services total approximately $ 19.2 million. These include improving water quality, stormwater management, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration.

Preserving 50,000 acres of undeveloped land and reducing emissions through reduced car travel (replaced by travel by bicycle or on foot) produces the benefits of carbon sequestration. It is estimated that 5,500 walkers and runners and 4,800 cyclists are expected to use the trail each day.

Lindrose-Siegel cites the growing crowds on existing area trails, as well as the number of people projected to use the Great Springs roads, as evidence of the need for the project.

“We anticipate that people will be on the trail for recreation or will walk the entire distance from Alamo to the Capitol. There will be people who, say, live in Kyle and want to go to San Marcos and not get on I-35, ”she said. “We anticipate that a lot of cyclists and trail users will use it to get around.”

On comparable trails, 33 percent of trail users are from outside the region. If that holds true here, that’s roughly 1.1 million non-local users per year – who will be spending money on food, entertainment, bike rentals, accommodation, and more. Additional economic benefits could include jobs related to the construction and maintenance of trails.

All projections are based on usage estimates and survey results from similar trail networks in Texas and throughout the Southeastern United States, extrapolated using various multipliers from national studies and quantified in terms of monetary value, if applicable.

The report also highlights the use of conserved land’s natural infrastructure to reduce catastrophic flood damage and save millions of dollars per year. Texas is forecasting $ 31.5 billion in statewide flood mitigation costs over the next 10 years.

“This is an important part of the report, highlighting the role of strategic land conservation in reducing catastrophic flood damage,” adds Lindrose-Siegel. “Sometimes it can be difficult to understand why an investment in trails is worth it, but as this report shows, there are many benefits to it. Being able to quantify and articulate this in a way that people can relate to really helps build support for this project, which is going to have a significant impact on people’s lives for decades to come.

The report was produced with advice from Alta Planning + Design and the National Park Service.

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