The Mountain Goat Trail in Tennessee's Franklin and Grundy counties could have more than a $1.2 million net annual economic impact on the Monteagle Mountain community and cities along the 35-mile route, a report found.
The trail is a rail-to-trail project to convert 35 to 40 miles of the abandoned Mountain Goat Railroad right of way into a multiuse recreational corridor.
The project plan consists of work to build a smooth, bikeable trail from Cowan, Tenn., in Franklin County to Palmer, Tenn., in Grundy County. The first piece of the trail in Sewanee is complete almost to the Franklin-Grundy county line.
The study, the "Mountain Goat Trail Economic Impact Analysis," looks at a completed trail's impact on the local economy in an area of about 175 square miles, three to four years after the entire trail is 80- to 90-percent complete and passable on a road bicycle. The trail could see an estimated 100 users per day, most of them local, with the most economic impact coming from out-of-town visitors who stay overnight in the area.
The report was produced through a University of the South Babson Center for Global Commerce Carey Fellows study.
According to Sam Taussig, lead author of the study, a gross annual impact is estimated at $2.3 million to $2.5 million before the costs of goods and supplying services are deducted to derive the "total value added," essentially the net gain in financial impact of a substantially complete trail shown in the study to be at least $1.2 million annually.
"That means for every outside dollar spent within the community that $1.34 is generated and retained within the community," Taussig said.
"It's about $180,000 added to each community per year," he said. "It mainly falls on restaurants."
Tracy City could potentially benefit even more if work to restore its railway turntable and a streetscaping project are completed, Taussig said, noting that Tracy City is at the midpoint of the trail and has attractive greenspaces and quaint businesses such as the Dutch Maid Bakery and Henry Flury & Sons General Store.
The study's authors say the trail's impact deserves continued analysis as more segments are finished.
"We were thrilled with the results of the study. It put into numbers what we knew in our hearts would be true; that it [the trail] would improve the economic outlook for the entire plateau," Mountain Goat Trail Alliance board President Janice Thomas said Tuesday.
Thomas said Alliance members and local business owners who attended a study presentation "felt all the numbers were very sound."
A $200,000 grant awarded for the project over the summer will fund another two miles or so of trail work around Tracy City and Palmer, officials said. Work on Phase II of the trail between Sewanee and Monteagle will start in spring 2014.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...