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Decades of vision, planning and collaboration have helped make Iowa a premier trails destination. The Wabash Trace Nature Trail, High Trestle Trail and Cedar Valley Nature Trail, for example, are staples to their communities and support local commerce and growth. Access to natural landscapes and recreational opportunities are among the top factors that motivate individuals to visit and move to Iowa. Trails help get people get outdoors and stay healthy, while making communities a more attractive place to work and live.
Iowa’s State Recreational Trails Program has leveraged funding from federal and private sources to construct hundreds of miles of trails. Even so, demand for trail expansion, development and maintenance has consistently outpaced funding, leaving many unmet needs and unrealized opportunities. Funding for Iowa trails is a sound investment in public health, rural revitalization and economic prosperity.
Each year, outdoor recreation in Iowa generates $8.7 billion in consumer spending, $649 million in local state tax revenue and 83,000 jobs, with an estimated $417 million generated through direct and indirect benefits of cycling. Yet, annual funding requests for the State Recreation Trails Program average 5 times the amount available, leaving over $200 million in unmet trail needs, 75% of which are in rural communities.
- Studies show that about 25% of Iowans do not engage in any physical activity outside of their regular jobs. Inactivity costs the state over $5.3 billion through lost worker productivity, increased medical costs and increased worker’s compensation. People that live near trails are 50% more likely to meet physical activity guidelines.
- Iowa has an opportunity to draw in tourist through national trails projects such as the Great American Rail Trail and the American Discovery Trail.
- Find examples of trail projects in need of additional funding
INHF recommends that the State Recreational Trails program receive a significant increase in funding to address the high demand for trail projects across the state.