Rail trails are an increasingly important tool for expanding tourism and promoting economic development. A 2013 study by Camoin Associates found that the CMRT would bring about 140,000 visitors a year to Ulster County, and $3.1 million in direct and indirect spending. For the complete study click here, for just the highlights click here.
As demonstrated by the recent success of the Walkway Over the Hudson, which opened in October 2009, pedestrian and bicycle trails that highlight outstanding historic and scenic resources can attract hundreds of thousands of year-round visitors to our region and create hundreds of new jobs. In addition to increasing tourism, the CMRT will also make the City of Kingston and the Hudson Valley more attractive as a place to live, work and invest.
Studies show that trails not only attract tourists, but also extend their length of stay, directly benefiting restaurants, motels, other recreational and cultural attractions, and a wide variety of retail and service businesses. The study by Camoin Associates mentioned earlier, also estimates that the CMRT will bring roughly $3.1 million in direct and indirect spending to Ulster County and the state of New York.
A recently-released study commissioned by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development; Catskill Mountainkeeper; and the Catskill Heritage Alliance, puts some hard data and dollars behind the CMRT vision. It estimates the economic impact generated by outdoor recreational activities in the central Catskills for the surrounding communities at more than $46 million from 1.7 million visitors annually, supporting 980 jobs.
The CMRT will provide enhanced recreational tourism and business opportunities in communities from the City of Kingston, all along the Route 28 Catskill Gateway corridor, including the Towns of Ulster, Kingston, Woodstock, Hurley, Olive and deep into the wild beauty of the Catskills in the Town of Shandaken, ending at the Ulster County boundary at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, before connecting with the Scenic Catskills Rail Trail in Delaware County. Since longer trails generate more visitors from greater distances, the connection of the CMRT with trails to the south and west – in addition to hiking trails and other recreational activities in the Catskill Park – promise a renewed economic vitality for the Catskills, based on the region’s outstanding scenic beauty and protected wilderness lands.
According to County Exec Hein, “This rail trail conversion will have an immediate short-term as well as a long-term economic impact. First, the existing railroad tracks are a valuable asset that will be decommissioned and sold, generating a one-time revenue of approximately $650,000. Or, with the potential sale of the rail line to a not-for-profit like the Open Space Institute or one of the many others, it may well generate additional revenue as well as create enhanced avenues for grant opportunities. The long term value of this plan is almost incalculable: tourism dollars, community fitness, business attraction and quality of life.”
Praising the project as creating a world-class tourist destination, Hein said that it would “allow our residents and people from around the world to enjoy the pristine natural beauty that is Ulster County.”
Additionally, from a residential point of view, numerous studies nationwide have documented the fact that proximity to bike/hike trails increases property values.