THE ECONOMIC VALUE OF TRAILS IN ARIZONA
A Travel Cost Method Study – TECHNICAL REPORT
Dari Duval, George Frisvold, Ashley Bickel
The University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension
Collect of Agriculture & Life Sciences Agricultural & Resource Economics
© 2020 The Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, The University of Arizona.
What’s the issue?
Outdoor recreation supports the quality of life and health of individuals, communities, and local economies. Trail access for non-motorized and motorized recreation enriches the lives of community residents and visitors, providing an outlet for exercise, outdoor recreation, and transportation. The inherent value and enjoyment derived from outdoor recreation is not directly monetized, for example, through consumer spending or property values, yet it is the driver behind the outdoor recreation economy. The economic value that individuals place on amenities like trails can be measured in terms of consumer surplus. Consumer surplus is a monetary measure of how well-off individuals are as a result of consuming or using a particular good, service, or resource. In other words, it estimates the value of a good based on the benefits that individuals derive from using the good, service, or resource. For goods that are not bought and sold in markets, such as natural amenities, the value of a particular resource can be estimated indirectly using what is known as the travel cost method. In this method, benefits of an amenity are estimated based on how much individuals spend in time and money to travel to enjoy a particular amenity.
Estimating the economic value associated with use of natural resources and amenities is important in understanding how society is impacted by changes in the quality of or access to those resources. It can help to guide public policy and investments by informing our understanding of the benefits and costs of different actions affecting natural resources and amenities valued by the public.
As a complement to the Arizona State Parks 2020 Trails Plan, this study estimates the economic value of non-motorized and motorized trail use to Arizona residents using the travel cost method. Trail use includes use of trails managed by Arizona State Parks, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and other land management agencies for both non-motorized and motorized uses. Non-motorized uses include walking, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding/equestrian use, among others. Motorized trail uses include dirt biking, ATV, UTV, side-by-side, and four wheeling, among others. In addition to the economic value of trail use in Arizona to in-state residents, we also estimate total annual trail use for both non-motorized and motorized recreation, presenting the results in an origin-destination matrix that captures the estimated flow of in-state travel between counties for non-motorized and motorized trail recreation. Finally, we examine the importance of trail amenities to Arizona residents in their decisions of where to live and where to travel for leisure, both with important implications for community development.
What did the study find?
Total trail use
- In the past year, Arizonans used trails in the state for non-motorized recreation an estimated 83,110,000 times, and for motorized recreation an estimated 20,117,000 times.
- An estimated 59.2% of Arizona’s adult population (or 3,073,100 Arizonans) engaged in non-motorized trail use in the past year, and an estimated 24.4% of the adult population (1,263,600 Arizonans) engaged in motorized trail use in the past year. Some trail users participate in both non-motorized and motorized trail recreation.
- Non-motorized trail users averaged 27.0 trail visits in the past year, and motorized trail users averaged 15.9 trail visits.
Economic value of trails in Arizona
- The economic value (consumer surplus) derived from non-motorized trail use in Arizona by in-state residents, based on a midpoint estimate, is $8.3 billion per year, with model estimates ranging between $6.2 billion and $10.6 billion. The economic value (consumer surplus) derived from motorized trail use in Arizona by in-state residents is an estimated $5.2 billion per year.
- Per visit consumer surplus for non-motorized trail use ranged between $90.32 and $128.03, depending on travel cost model assumptions, with a midpoint estimate of $100.06.
- Per visit consumer surplus for motorized trail use was an estimated $259.17.
Importance of trails in Arizonans’ decision of where to live and visit
- When asked the importance of having trails nearby in deciding where to live:
- More than 77% of respondents that participated in non-motorized trail recreation in Arizona report trail proximity as somewhat or very important. This remains true whether the respondent has participated in the past year or has ever participated in non-motorized trail recreation at some point in the past.
- Roughly 80% of respondents that have ever used motorized trails or have used motorized trails in the past year report that trail proximity is somewhat or very important.
- When asked the importance of having trails nearby in their decision of where to visit:
- Roughly 83% of respondents who have ever used non-motorized trails or who have used them in the past year consider trails somewhat or very important in their decision of where to visit. For individuals that have never used trails for non-motorized recreation or that haven’t used them in the past year, these percentages are slightly lower, ranging between 67% and 71%.
- Close to 85% of respondents that have ever used motorized trails or have used motorized trails in the past year report that trail proximity is somewhat or very important. For those respondents that have never participated in motorized trail use or that haven’t in the past year, these figures ranged between 75% and 80%.
Top non-motorized and motorized trail destinations
- Based on survey responses, top non-motorized trail use destinations include Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona, Apache Junction, Scottsdale, and Flagstaff. These top destinations are heavily reflective of popular trail use areas near major metro areas with large populations.
- Top motorized trail use destinations, though still influenced by major metro areas, are more reflective of areas of the state that attract motorized trail users. Top motorized trail use areas include Apache Junction, Yuma, Buckeye, Black Canyon City, and Carefree.
How was the study conducted?
This study relies on data from a stratified random sample survey of Arizona residents eighteen years of age and older collected as part of Arizona’s 2020 Trails Plan. The survey collected information on respondents’ non-motorized and motorized trail use in the past year, the location of their favorite, most frequently-used, and furthest traveled to trails, as well as individuals’ demographics, including their home zip code. The analysis uses the travel cost method to estimate per-visit consumer surplus associated with non-motorized and motorized trail use. Trail use demand is modeled using a zero-inflated Poisson distribution, controlling for respondent socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The estimates of consumer surplus from non-motorized trail use vary based on assumptions about trail use of high-frequency trail users. This is why a midpoint, low, and high range of estimates are reported. For motorized trail use, data from secondary sources were used to develop a single, central estimate of consumer surplus. In addition, the analysis developed a trail user origin-destination matrix, capturing where trail users from around the state travel to for non-motorized and motorized trail recreation. The origin-destination results were used to develop profiles for each county in Arizona, examining the most popular non-motorized and motorized trail use destinations, and where users travel from to each county for trail-based recreation (see Appendix B).
Outdoor recreation supports the quality of life and health of individuals, communities, and local economies. As part of the Arizona State Parks 2020 Trails Plan, this study estimates the economic value of non-motorized and motorized trail use to Arizona residents, as well as statewide demand for in-state trail use. Trail use includes use of trails managed by Arizona State Parks, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and other land management agencies for non-motorized and motorized uses. Non-motorized uses include walking, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding/equestrian use, among others, and motorized uses include dirt biking, ATV, UTV, side-by-side, and four wheeling, among others. Economic value, also known as consumer surplus, measures how well-off individuals are made by consuming (or in this case, using) a particular good, service, or resource. For goods that are not bought and sold in markets, such as natural amenities, the value of a particular resource can be estimated indirectly. This can be done based upon how much an individual would be willing to spend in order to travel to a particular location, using what is known as the travel cost method (Parsons, 2003). This type of analysis is different from measures of consumer spending, and is well-suited to valuation of amenities like trails where individuals do not necessarily have to spend significant amounts of their income to engage in recreation.
This study relies on a statewide survey of Arizona residents eighteen years of age and older to estimate non-motorized and motorized trail use demand, willingness to pay for travel to trail destinations, and aggregate consumer surplus. The analysis covers trail user attitudes regarding the importance of trail infrastructure in their decisions of where to live and travel – questions with important implications for community development and policy. Additionally, the analysis includes development of a trail user origin-destination matrix, capturing where trail users from around the state travel to for non-motorized and motorized trail recreation.
The study begins with a summary of different strategies for valuation of natural resource-based amenities, followed by a specific description of the study’s data and methods, including the travel cost analysis and origin-destination matrix. Consumer surplus and origin-destination matrix results are presented separately for non-motorized and motorized trail users. We conclude with a discussion of the results and potential extensions of the research to inform state and community-level planning and policy.