Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails and University of Florida researchers recently released the results of a trail survey study they conducted on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and the Leelanau Trail. Over 800 surveys were completed by trail users along with extensive surveys from business owners and health care professionals.

As expected, the results indicated significant positive economic impact of these trails indicating that trail users contribute nearly $3.4 million annually to the local economy in direct spending.

While tourism dollars are a significant component of the positive impact of trails, results also stressed that trails help make the community healthier and reduce overall health care costs in the region. In fact, health professionals argued that improving access of trails to more citizens would be an excellent preventative health care strategy for people struggling with obesity, heart disease, and other ailments attributed to living a solitary lifestyle.

According to TART, “The main implications of the study showed that the Leelanau and Sleeping Bear Heritage trails are not just frivolous recreational trails that provide a few people with a chance to bike, walk, run, and ski. Health care professionals, business leaders, and the users themselves believe these trails help define the area and give the Traverse region a sense of being an active community.”

“Specifically, business leaders believe the trails enhance the sense of community among residents. They also acknowledge the trails provide an extra layer of tourism and extend the seasonality of many businesses.” *

We believe many of the findings apply to the Betsie Valley Trail, especially the conclusions related to a greater sense of an active community. It demonstrates that our community values being outside and staying active year-round.

Clearly, our Trail helps make our community healthier which reduces overall healthcare costs improving the overall quality of life. The Betsie Valley Trail not only helps to bring the community together but makes Benzie County a more desirable place to live.