Bike shops selling out of bikes. Families heading out regularly for walks together. Gym-goers rediscovering running outside. Across the country, these are some of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic being reported by trail organizations and the recreation industry.
In March 2020, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council began statewide research to measure how business and recreational closures along with stay-at-home orders impacted trail use. "The main takeaway," write authors of a PEC report, "is that the state's non-motorized trails have served as an outdoor recreation outlet for Pennsylvanians.... Whether in urban centers or rural villages, people...have found refuge in trails. Because of this, PEC full supports and encourages all levels of government — local, county, state, and federal — to treat outdoor recreation investments as a critical part of economic recovery as we move forward."
These are challenging times, but we are grateful for the growing recognition that trails bring a huge return on investment in terms of health, community engagement, transportation alternatives, environmental stewardship, and more.