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Utah Report Points to Economic Value of Recreation

Photo courtey Scott Markewitz Photography

In 2012, Headwaters Economics released a report analyzing the major economic role that public lands near Grand County, Utah. The study (scroll down for a full-length PDF download) examined a wide range of public lands uses, including mining and agriculture, but focused on recreation because this type of use represents the largest, most complex, and least well understood activity on public lands in the county.

The study found that that tourism and recreation businesses account for 44 percent of private employment in the county; and that more than one-third of local families have a member that works in a tourism and recreation business related to public lands.

For mountain bikers, elements of the study focusing on the economic value of a new shared-use trail system called the Intrepid Trails are encouraging:

Data related to the Intrepid Trail System

  • $40,000 to build three stacked loops (1.1, 4.2 and 9.0 miles) with $20,000 donated by Intrepid Potash Inc., other half funded by Utah State Parks
  • Trail designed by Moab Trail Mix and Moab Trails Alliance with help from IMBA Trail Care Crew, built by Moab Trail Mix, American Conservation Experience, Utah Conservation Corps, National Park Service and Utah State Parks.
  • Trail opened May 2009. Using sampling records, park staff estimate $24,740 in revenue during the trail's first year from July 2009-June 2010 ($17,850 in park day use fees, $5,890 in visitor center gift shop sales to bikers, $1,000 in off-season day use fees).

Dead Horse Point State Park, home to the Intrepid Trails, saw a significant economic boost:

  • 2011 visitation = 182,419
  • Revenue exceeded operating costs nearly two to one.
  • In 2009 an estimated 179,157 visitors created an economic impact of $4.1 million in Grand County.

The study was created after a local steering committee that includes diverse interests — including representatives from Trail Mix, Ride with Respect, Red Rock Four Wheelers, Moab Lodging Association, Moab Trail Alliance, Moab Chamber of Commerce, and local officials — requested that the Grand County Council support a study on the economic and fiscal role of public lands in the county that could be the basis for informed discussions about how to develop, protect, and manage nearby public lands so that they benefit businesses, the county, and diverse users into the future.

Public lands in Grand County — because of both their extensiveness and their beauty — have directly influenced and shaped the county’s economic performance. These lands will continue to play a vital role in the future economic health and prosperity of the region, and a key challenge facing Grand County leaders is how to maximize the long-term return from this valuable asset.

GrandCounty_Report.pdf4.11 MB