Close the Loop Series: Outdoor Recreation Economy

Did you know the Whitefish Trail Master Plan (A Trail Runs Through It) was published in 2006?! The 91-page document was adopted by the City of Whitefish and serves as a guiding document for the future of our local lands. It states, “The trail system will create an outstanding recreational amenity for the community that will have economic effects through increased property values and increased tourism.”
Just 11 years later, the Whitefish Trail has transformed from a lofty idea into a world-class trail system with 42-miles of trail accessed by 12 trailheads. Not to mention the 6,000+ acres of local lands that have been placed into permanent conservation.
We all know the direct impact the trail has on our individual lives, but what is the community economic impact? Ron Brunk, co-owner of Glacier Cyclery, offers some insight:
“Our rental bike operation has more than doubled…we are also seeing an increasing number of people in our store requesting maps and information on the Whitefish Trail; they are asking for camping, lodging and restaurant information as well. The trail is generating an economic boost not only to Glacier Cyclery but to the entire Whitefish community”
Offering a different angle, President of ZaneRay Group , Reed Gregerson, states that the Whitefish Trail is a great recruiting resource for attracting quality talent to his business. “Taking a prospective employee out for a quick mountain-bike ride is the perfect introduction to our community and Montana lifestyle.” ZaneRay is also seeing healthy retention rates that Gregerson thinks can be directly correlated to the many outdoor recreation opportunities close-to-town.
Preliminary statistics have surfaced during our Economic Impact Study in partnership with Headwaters Economics and Whitefish CVB. For instance, those visiting Whitefish specifically for outdoor recreation activities spend an average of 20% more during their stay. Since May, we have collected over 1,700 surveys that will help us identify expenditure data, trail usage patterns, and even the number of dogs at Lion Mountain. If you were one of the 1,000 locals who have completed a survey this year, we THANK YOU! The report will be finalized in December and presented at Whitefish CVB public annual meeting on December 11th at 5:00 PM, location TBD.