For Immediate Release

June 20, 2024

CONTACT: Courtney Mahronich Vita, Director Trail Development and Government Relations, Friends of the Riverfront.

Email: Phone: 412-260-6287



Study Demonstrates Economic Impact of Three Rivers Heritage Trail on Region

33+ Mile Trail Network Responsible for $26.5 million in Economic Impact in 2023


Pittsburgh, PA – Founded in 1991, Friends of the Riverfront is the nonprofit responsible for extending, managing, and providing advocacy and programming on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Allegheny County, which now covers more than 33 miles of trail. Released this month, an economic impact report commissioned by Friends of the Riverfront shows that the trail continues to have a substantial and positive impact on the regional economy, environment, and quality of life.  ACCESS THE COMPLETE REPORT


In 2023, there were an estimated 1.3 million visits to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, generating $26.5 million in total economic impact, according to a year-long analysis by Pittsburgh-based consulting firm Fourth Economy. The economic impact of the trail network has more than tripled since the last study of this kind was completed in 2014, and the number of trail users has doubled.


The Three Rivers Heritage Trail also accounted for $16 million in earnings for local workers in 2023, and $5.7 million in tax revenue., including $1 million for schools and $619,000 to municipal governments.


Twenty-five percent of all new residential construction in the city, and 57% of all new commercial construction in the city has taken place within a half mile of the trail, accounting for $987 million dollars’ worth of development. If the Three Rivers Heritage Trail were an industry, its Gross Regional Product (GRP) would be greater than that of the surface coal mining industry.


Aside from the health benefits of the trail, 13% of users said their primary use was transportation, and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail is the transportation choice for roughly 2,095 commuters. This carbon footprint savings is equivalent to taking 233 gas-powered cars off the road, or offsetting the energy use of 132 homes.


In addition to the robust economic impacts, the study also shows the trail’s impact on the health and wellness of users across the region. Forty-nine percent of users noted that their primary use for the trail was health or exercise. That exercise is estimated to have prevented premature deaths and reduced medical costs by at least $338,000, equivalent to the average medical expenditure of 53 households. Altogether, the trail produces $273 million in Value of Statistical Life Benefit.


The Three Rivers Heritage Trail 2024 Impact Assessment was produced with funding from the Hillman Foundation, the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County Trail Development Fund, and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Program under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.


“This study strongly confirms what regional developers and users of the trail already know: that the trail is a regional asset and a major economic driver for the region,” said Kelsey Ripper, Executive Director of Friends of the Riverfront.


Courtney Mahronich Vita, Friends of the Riverfront’s Director of Trail Development, and Government Relations, added, “it is exciting to see the return on the last decade’s worth of investments into the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.”


Senator Lindsey Williams of Senate District 38, whose territory includes much of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail’s current Allegheny River valley mileage, confirms that those investments have been worth it to her constituents.


“My office regularly hears from residents and municipalities about the desire to reconnect to our riverfronts through trails and other recreation opportunities,” said Senator Williams. “This data quantifies what we instinctively know—that the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and Friends of the Riverfront provide enormous economic, health, and community benefits to the entire region. I look forward to expanding the trail network further up the Allegheny River Valley in the coming years.”


Representative Mandy Steele, whose territory includes the segment of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail from Sharpsburg to Freeport along the Allegheny River, credits the trail with helping to reinvigorate communities in her district.


 “Friends of the Riverfront has been a strong partner in the critical work of trail building and river access in the region, helping to push cultural and economic revitalization into our communities. This latest study demonstrates the impact of trails and what they can bring to our communities,” she said, adding, “the Three Rivers Heritage Trail project will have a clear impact here in the Allegheny Valley with the potential to bring jobs, tax revenue and businesses.”


Former Allegheny County Executive and the current Executive Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Rich Fitzgerald, also spoke of Friends of the Riverfront’s work and the impact of the trails.


“For over 30 years, Friends of the Riverfront has diligently supported, protected, and improved the trails along our three rivers. The organization’s work to connect and improve trails has fostered significant economic growth and improved the quality of life for our region,” he said.


Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato also confirmed the economic impact of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.


“Trail development throughout Allegheny County provides value in several ways – from transportation corridors, recreational opportunities and investment in our municipalities.  We see firsthand the prospects for business investment in communities such as coffee shops, breweries and restaurants,” said the County Executive. “This report demonstrates the economic value that is important for our county and residents.  Not to mention, it’s fun to ride on a trail!  We look forward to our continued partnership with Friends of the Riverfront.”


“From the avid cyclists, walkers, and runners that frequent the small businesses which exist along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail Network to the more recent developments that have been built—the business of trails is good business for everyone,” Fitzgerald added. “Many communities have been able to reap the positive economic benefits because of this organization’s work.”


Mahronich-Vita pointed out that the positive impacts of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail are expected to continue to grow. “We have more than 33 miles now, but there are more than 35 additional miles in development,” she said.


She added, “considering the results we’ve already seen, as long as investment into the trail continues, this region’s residents can expect more gains in economic revitalization, health and quality of life as a result.”









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