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The River Town Program
The River Town Program is: 
An initiative in partnership with heritage areas, environmental groups and community development organizations 
A regional program based on the growing outdoor recreational market 
A community driven process 
Grassroots rather than grass tops driven
Asset Based Community Development 
Mobilizes community to take action 
Is not dependent on outside expertise 
Allows communities to drive the development process 
Creates local economic opportunity
History and Heritage
Combined with nature and recreation
Trail Towns, River Towns, Canal Towns 
Economic development and community revitalization programs 
linking communities, tourism and heritage
Based on a growing interest in outdoor recreational activities. 
Capitalizes on existing assets of natural environment, navigable rivers, developed trails and heritage attractions. 
Engages municipal and civic leadership in the value of the resource and the need to conserve, sustain and improve.
It Works: In the first three years… 
Over $1.2 Million raised in project funding 
Regional River Town signage installed 
River-related activities attract 1000s more visitors than in previous years 
2 Kayak rentals, two marinas and 1 Paddleboard business open 
50 new campsites opened 
River view corridors opened in five communities
Public docks improved and expanded 
Five public art installations 
Hundreds of flowers planted 
Three buildings and one caboose painted 
Five facades improved 
Four business signs designed and installed 
One park donated to the public 
Three other parks cleared and improved 
Trail master plan completed
It’s All About the Economics! 
The Great Allegheny Passage (2008) Over $40 million in economic impact in the 2008 season April - November (Campos Market Research study). Plus another $7.26 million in wages in trail-related businesses in the same period.
Water Trails are Good Business 
University of Vermont, Northern Forest Canoe Trail study (2007) 
90,000 visitors per year 
$12 million in total economic impacts 
280 jobs created 
$215 spending per trip 
Non-locals spending average of $414-$498 per trip 
Paddler recreation & tourism impacts local economies
Economics of Trails 
Pine Creek Trail $3.6 million 
Schuylkill River Trail $3.6 million 
Oil Heritage Trails $4.3 million 
Torrey C. Brown Trail $5.2 million
Economics of Outdoor Recreation 
Active outdoor recreation employs five times more Americans than Walmart, the world’s largest private employer 
The outdoor recreation industry contributes more than $800 billion and 6.5 million jobs to the U.S. economy 
The average spending of overnight trail users is $98 per day 
Average paddlers spend $23-$64 per day
Sources of Economic Impact 
Rails to Trails Conservancy, an annual report 
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Pennsylvania trail system) 
National Park Service (C & O Canal National Historic Park study) 
Outdoor Industry Foundation 
Many, many more
Answering the NIMBYs 
Outdoor recreation and tourism are small jobs and seasonal 
Trails are just for local residents 
The value of my property will go down with a trail passing through it 
I do not want strangers in my neighborhood; crime will go up.
The Power of Small Business 
Small Business accounts for 39% of GNP 
Small Business creates 75% of new jobs in our economy 
Small Business generated 60-80% of net new jobs annually over the last decade 
On average entrepreneurs make at least 25% more than the general population. 
 Experian, 2006
Property Values Rise 
Studies show property values increase with proximity to bicycle paths: 
Manon Trail, Indiana: homes within ½ mile of the trail sell for 14% more than comparable homes in the area. 
Pinellas Trail, 34 miles, Florida: median home sales prices adjacent to trail escalated faster than countywide.
Crime is not an Issue 
Renaissance Planning Group in a Florida study concluded that trails acted as a deterrent effect on crime. 
The Rails to Trails Conservancy studied crime statistics from 372 trails of diverse length and type and found that 5 million users reported crimes vastly below national levels
Confluence, Pennsylvania: The Story of a Trail Town
Population: 720 Residents 
6 Bed and Breakfasts 
15 Guest Houses 
3 Campgrounds; plus 1 Glamping site 
10 Restaurants/Cafes 
3 Grocery stores 
1 Outfitter; 1 Bicycle Rental (including recumbents) 
An Art Center, Art Gallery, Antique Store 
2 Salons and 1 Spa
Cathy McCollom, Director, River Town Program and Principal, McCollom Development Strategies, LLC csm@mccollomds.com

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'Selling' Rural Communities on Cycling-The River Town Program

  • 1. The River Town Program
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  • 3. The River Town Program is: An initiative in partnership with heritage areas, environmental groups and community development organizations A regional program based on the growing outdoor recreational market A community driven process Grassroots rather than grass tops driven
  • 4. Asset Based Community Development Mobilizes community to take action Is not dependent on outside expertise Allows communities to drive the development process Creates local economic opportunity
  • 6. Combined with nature and recreation
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  • 8. Trail Towns, River Towns, Canal Towns Economic development and community revitalization programs linking communities, tourism and heritage
  • 9. Based on a growing interest in outdoor recreational activities. Capitalizes on existing assets of natural environment, navigable rivers, developed trails and heritage attractions. Engages municipal and civic leadership in the value of the resource and the need to conserve, sustain and improve.
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  • 20. It Works: In the first three years… Over $1.2 Million raised in project funding Regional River Town signage installed River-related activities attract 1000s more visitors than in previous years 2 Kayak rentals, two marinas and 1 Paddleboard business open 50 new campsites opened River view corridors opened in five communities
  • 21. Public docks improved and expanded Five public art installations Hundreds of flowers planted Three buildings and one caboose painted Five facades improved Four business signs designed and installed One park donated to the public Three other parks cleared and improved Trail master plan completed
  • 22. It’s All About the Economics! The Great Allegheny Passage (2008) Over $40 million in economic impact in the 2008 season April - November (Campos Market Research study). Plus another $7.26 million in wages in trail-related businesses in the same period.
  • 23. Water Trails are Good Business University of Vermont, Northern Forest Canoe Trail study (2007) 90,000 visitors per year $12 million in total economic impacts 280 jobs created $215 spending per trip Non-locals spending average of $414-$498 per trip Paddler recreation & tourism impacts local economies
  • 24. Economics of Trails Pine Creek Trail $3.6 million Schuylkill River Trail $3.6 million Oil Heritage Trails $4.3 million Torrey C. Brown Trail $5.2 million
  • 25. Economics of Outdoor Recreation Active outdoor recreation employs five times more Americans than Walmart, the world’s largest private employer The outdoor recreation industry contributes more than $800 billion and 6.5 million jobs to the U.S. economy The average spending of overnight trail users is $98 per day Average paddlers spend $23-$64 per day
  • 26.
  • 27. Sources of Economic Impact Rails to Trails Conservancy, an annual report Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Pennsylvania trail system) National Park Service (C & O Canal National Historic Park study) Outdoor Industry Foundation Many, many more
  • 28. Answering the NIMBYs Outdoor recreation and tourism are small jobs and seasonal Trails are just for local residents The value of my property will go down with a trail passing through it I do not want strangers in my neighborhood; crime will go up.
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  • 31. The Power of Small Business Small Business accounts for 39% of GNP Small Business creates 75% of new jobs in our economy Small Business generated 60-80% of net new jobs annually over the last decade On average entrepreneurs make at least 25% more than the general population.  Experian, 2006
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  • 33. Property Values Rise Studies show property values increase with proximity to bicycle paths: Manon Trail, Indiana: homes within ½ mile of the trail sell for 14% more than comparable homes in the area. Pinellas Trail, 34 miles, Florida: median home sales prices adjacent to trail escalated faster than countywide.
  • 34. Crime is not an Issue Renaissance Planning Group in a Florida study concluded that trails acted as a deterrent effect on crime. The Rails to Trails Conservancy studied crime statistics from 372 trails of diverse length and type and found that 5 million users reported crimes vastly below national levels
  • 35. Confluence, Pennsylvania: The Story of a Trail Town
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  • 41. Population: 720 Residents 6 Bed and Breakfasts 15 Guest Houses 3 Campgrounds; plus 1 Glamping site 10 Restaurants/Cafes 3 Grocery stores 1 Outfitter; 1 Bicycle Rental (including recumbents) An Art Center, Art Gallery, Antique Store 2 Salons and 1 Spa
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  • 58. Cathy McCollom, Director, River Town Program and Principal, McCollom Development Strategies, LLC csm@mccollomds.com