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Richard Doty

Stephen Wolter
Eppley Institute

Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2002

IU study shows Hoosier recreational trails supported by users, neighbors

A study of six recreational trails throughout Indiana has shown that most users are walkers and bicyclists who believe the trails are safe and view their city more favorably because of them. Neighbors along the routes use the trails on a regular basis, feel the trails have a positive effect or no effect on their property values, and improve the quality of their neighborhood.

These are among the findings of the study by the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at the Indiana University School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

Stephen Wolter, director of the Eppley Institute, said the purpose of the study was to identify information and trends on trail use, trail management and trail impacts. Assisting with the project were the Indiana State Department of Transportation, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service. The report is available online at

Surveyed were the Monon Rail Trail at Indianapolis, Pennsy Rail Trail at Greenfield, Maple City Greenway Trail at Goshen, River Greenway Trail at Fort Wayne, Cardinal Greenway Trail at Muncie and Prairie Duneland Trail at Portage.

The trail length varied from three miles at Greenfield to 15 miles at Fort Wayne. Estimates of users during the survey period in the fall of the year 2000 varied from some 27,000 in the urban area of Indianapolis to 2,600 in the rural area of Greenfield.

Wolter said it was remarkable that the findings were so consistent, given the diverse character of the trails among suburban, urban and rural settings.

Among the findings for trail users were:

  • Most usage occurred after work and during the weekend.Primary use was for fitness and exercise for 30 minutes or more.
  • Walkers and bicyclists were the most common users, with smaller percentages for runners and skaters.
  • Most users participated more in their selected activity because of the trail.
  • Most users were from households with upper-middle-class incomes, were college-educated and were between ages 26 and 55.
  • In most cases, a majority of users were opposed to paying a fee to use the trails.
  • Most users lived within two miles of the trail and were highly satisfied with the trail.
  • A high percentage of users felt that the trails are safe.
  • More than 90 percent of the users viewed their city more favorably because of the trail.

Key findings for the trail neighbors were:

  • Most were regular users of the trail.
  • Most were largely satisfied with the trail as a neighbor and believed the trail improved the neighborhood quality.
  • Most felt that the trail had a positive impact or no effect on their property values and that the trail made it easier to sell their property.
  • Most were more concerned with problems relating to illegal vehicle use, parking and noise than in litter or maintenance.

Lack of safety patrols was the problem most often cited, followed by parking. Wolter said the findings on property values are significant. "We have heard comments for years -- mostly from those opposed to these trails -- that they adversely affect property values. This certainly wasn't substantiated in our survey, where the findings were just the opposite," he said.

Wolter said a key recommendation from the study is that all trail neighbors and users should be involved in planning and recommendations meetings. He said some agencies fail to do this. In addition, trail planning should involve landscaping for neighbor privacy; increasing safety patrols and volunteer litter removal groups; increasing signs requiring leashes for pets; recognizing peak demand for trail design and parking; getting health and wellness organizations involved in trail operations and construction costs; and establishing use fees to finance safety patrols and other costs.

Other recommendations included investigating use of safety personnel during peak use periods; aggressively supporting commuter use of trails; supporting visitor and tourist use of trails; developing partnerships with health and wellness service providers; conducting trail use research and surveys on a regular basis; and exploring lengthier studies of additional Hoosier trails.

The Eppley Institute was created in 1993 to encourage quality recreation and educational experiences for people while providing for protection of the natural and cultural resources of the country.

For more details on the report, contact Wolter at 812-855-4712 or 812-855-7083 or