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The survey shows that the trail, run entirely by volunteers, has a significant impact on the economy and quality of life of the community. It also draws users from far beyond the boundaries of Blair County.

arrowDownload the complete report with charts, survey questions, and open-ended responses (pdf 764 kb)


Trail User Survey Report: The Lower Trail, Pennsylvania

From Rails to Trails of Central Pa., Inc.

photo of covered bridge on trail

Bridge on the Lower Trail

Who is using the Lower Trail? Where do they come from? Why are they using it? How did they find out about it? How much money are they spending on trail-related items? Rails to Trails of Central Pa., Inc. wanted to know the answers to these questions and many others. Through the financial assistance of the Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Allegheny Ridge Corporation, Rails to Trails undertook a project to upgrade its signature trail brochure and conduct a survey of trail users during the 2008 trail season, running from April through October. This report summarizes the results of that survey.


The survey was conducted passively by making survey forms available at each of the Lower Trail’s trailheads. After completing the form, participants would mail them back to Rails to Trails or deposit them in locked receptacles at the trailheads. 1,025 forms were distributed; 485 were returned representing a total of 1,382 trail users. Forms were color-coded to indicate from which trailhead users had obtained the survey form.


Responses to the survey were heavy through May, June, July and August with almost half the users reporting they use the trail in the afternoons. Over a quarter frequent the trail in the mornings while evenings see the least heavy use of the trail. Nearly half the respondents use the trail on weekdays and weekends while 32 per cent use it exclusively on weekends. Just under 20 per cent use the trail exclusively on weekdays.

An average of just over 2 and a half people were reported in each party with men and women being split almost equally. Thirty four per cent of the users were between the ages of 36 and 55 while 32 per cent were 56 and older. Twenty per cent were less than 16 years old, demonstrating the family recreational opportunities provided by the Lower Trail

Of the 485 responses, 271 came from Zip codes outside of Blair County, including surveys from parties traveling from Maryland, New York, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado and Arizona. Of those who responded to the survey, 38 per cent learned of the trail by word of mouth while 18 per cent learned of it through the Lower Trail brochure. Road signs, the RTTCPA Web site and newspaper coverage accounted for just under 28 per cent of trail users’ awareness.

By far the largest contingent of users – 60 per cent – ride bikes on the trail. Just over 25 per cent walk. Other reported uses include running, canoeing or kayaking, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. Most people use the trail for health and exercise or recreation and relaxation. A large percentage of respondents also reported they just enjoy nature. Bird watching, photography, fitness training and wildlife watching also registered among the activities trail users engage in.

Economic Impact:

Trail users reported an average expenditure of nearly $400 a year on purchases that were influenced by their trail activities, though that figure may be impacted by 6 survey respondents who indicated the trail influenced their purchase of a vehicle. Most purchases were related to bicycles, bike accessories and clothing and footwear. Safety equipment was also among the items most frequently purchased.

On a per-use basis, the survey showed trail users spent an average of $27.21 on trail-related purchases including beverages, candy, ice cream and snack foods, sandwiches, meals and gasoline. Only 9 per cent of those who responded to the survey indicated their trip involved an overnight stay in a bed and breakfast, campground or hotel/motel, but those who did stay in a commercial facility spent an average of 3.3 nights at an average cost of $62.06. The average expenditure per night is somewhat skewed by the 7 per cent of respondents who either stayed at home or with friends and relatives overnight.

General Questions

The condition of the Lower Trail was well received with 91 per cent rating its maintenance as either good or excellent, with 70 per cent giving it an excellent rating. The survey showed the Alfarata trailhead is the most frequently used followed by Williamsburg and Flowing Spring. Few respondents use the Covedale trailhead while just 9 per cent indicated they most frequently use the Mount Etna trailhead.

Disturbingly, only 21 per cent of those responding to the survey reported they are members of Rails to Trails of Central Pennsylvania. Since the operation, maintenance and expansion of the trail is heavily dependent on membership dues, the results of the survey indicate a need to interest more trail users in joining RTTCPA.


The Lower Trail survey shows that the trail, run entirely by volunteers, has a significant impact on the economy and quality of life of the community. It is well regarded, but under-supported by those who use it and its appeal draws users from far beyond the boundaries of Blair County.

Specific information on individual survey questions follows along with an appendix listing the individual comments provided by survey respondents

Download the complete report with charts, survey questions, and open-ended responses (pdf 764 kb)

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