By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — There are a little more than 100,000 trips made annually on the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail in Union County, and about 1,100 people visited the trail about 12,000 times just this June.
And the average user spent $238.61 on recreational goods to enjoy the time — just some of the findings of the BVRT Research Team at Bucknell University, which conducted a study between June and July to find information and trends on travel demand and economic impact.
The team presented its findings Tuesday at the Union County Government Building along with officials of the Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority, which oversees the trail.
The Union County Planning Commission asked for the study to determine the next step with the trail. The study was funded with about $14,000 left over from a $350,000 grant LARA received from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for design and engineering of the trail.
Lewisburg Borough and East Buffalo Township also kicked in $5,000 each. The trail runs through those municipalities.
Team members are Michelle Oswald, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Thomas Kinnaman, professor of economics; Kelly Burkhart, a civil and environmental engineering student; and Mike Nicholson, an economics student.
Economically, the 9.2-mile trail between Lewisburg and Mifflinburg has a potential to bring an estimated $280,925 annually in recreational business to the area, the study team found.
“This direct spending increases local incomes which ... are responsible for indirect and induced spending of an estimated $477,572 per year in the Susquehanna Valley and $589,942 per year in Pennsylvania,” according to the study.
Giving a nod to current economics, the survey included a question of a hypothetical tax increase to fund an extension. Values of $1, $10, $100 and $1,000 were provided, and users were asked to either accept or reject each value. Again, there is some bias shown in that some users may be willing to pay these amounts, but are against any tax increase.
Those willing to pay for a trail extension averaged $815.29 per user, according to the study.
The study found the trail had about 400 visits a day in June, with cyclists besting walkers about two to one among trail users. Wednesdays and Sundays are the busiest, and the average trail user is about 49 years old and visits the trail about 10 times a month.
The average user also traveled about five miles to access the trail and was on it about 90 minutes per visit.
The study included automatic infrared and manual counts as well as surveys and interviews with trail users.