Happy Trails

by Emily Sears | April 12, 2012

As Brownsboro Alliance continues its work toward a trail system throughout the farms and neighborhoods of Oldham County, many residents and large landowners are voicing concerns about the impact of a trail system on property values and quality of life.  Of course, those residents closest to the trails will experience the greatest impact, and their reservations are understandable.  Concerns about crime, home resale values, litter, noise, and traffic are legitimately some of the first questions raised when a trail system is proposed.  We have taken a look at several other communities with trails in hopes of finding answers for our residents.

On our search for answers, it became clear quickly that Brownsboro’s residents are not alone in their misgivings.  Many studies nationwide have been implemented to determine how trails have affected a community.  Throughout other neighborhood communities and metropolitan areas that have existing trail systems, the response to trails is quite positive.  We hope the summaries below will encourage you and provide answers to the community’s questions about the proposed trail system in Brownsboro.

Omaha, Nebraska has an extensive trail system, with over 60 miles of paved recreational trails and another 35 scheduled in their master plan.  The University of Nebraska at Omaha performed a study published in June of 2000 to address the effect of these trails on property values and public safety.  Residents living within one-block of three, targeted trail-segments were surveyed by telephone or mailings.  A majority of the responding residents used the trails daily or weekly.  Most perceived the trails as an economic benefit, indicating that the trails would increase the selling price of their homes.  Seventy-seven percent surveyed indicated that the trails had increased their quality of life, and 75% of residents perceive a positive relationship between the trails and neighborhood quality of life.  The residents surveyed were most likely to be most directly affected by crime, yet theft and property damage were reported infrequently.  Of the 149 residents contacted, only one wanted the trails closed.

The Pinellas Trail of St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida was evaluated in a similar study, after many homeowners and neighborhood groups voiced opposition to trails.  Households within ¼ mile of the trail were surveyed, with positive results in favor of trail implementation.  The study found trails to be a deterrent to crime.  Homeowners and realtors alike indicated a positive effect on property values and increased sales in areas near the trails.  Interestingly, the negative perceptions about the trail system were held by residents who had never used the trails.

A study conducted in Austin, TX looked solely at the effect of trails on property values.  Researchers from Michigan State University and Texas A&M University found property values in two of the three areas studied to rise the closer the properties were to the trails.  The third area showed no effect – neither positive nor negative.  Their conclusions indicated that trails positively influence property values by as much as one fifth of the value.  As a result, the property tax base grew substantially, indicating a positive economic impact and a valuable asset to urban planning.

A fourth study of the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Ohio’s Hamilton and Clermont Counties came to the same conclusion:  trails positively impact property values.  For every foot closer homes are to the trail, the sale price increases by $7.05.  Most significant to Brownsboro, this study also indicated the historic preservation trails brought to the community.  Trails serve as social outlets for local residents and connect neighborhoods to promote social interaction.  Citing additional sources, the study remarked on trail benefits including decreased traffic and pollution, vegetation and wildlife enhancement, and increased tourism and opportunities for economic development.

In all, the trail studies summarized here support community trails and show only benefits of existing trail systems.  Brownsboro residents, particularly those living closest to the trails and those who would use the trails most, would see their land values and quality of life improved, perhaps even more fully enjoying their properties as a source of recreation, fitness, and social opportunity.