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Estimation of Demand for Equestrian Trail Recreational Activities in Kentucky
A. Pagoulatos, W. Hu, J. Stowe
Department of Agricultural Economics
Given the importance of the equine industry for the Kentucky economy and the usage of trails by regular Kentucky or nearby state residents, it is imperative to ensure this resource is managed properly to support sustainable long-term development. This project will serve a unique role of providing an inventory of current equine trail conditions based on ecological, geographic, economics and socio-demographic information of the stakeholders.
A subsequent role of this research is to assess actual demand for these trails from an economic perspective. This type of demand is closely related to the benefit these trails provide to the society. Thus, this study helps understanding social benefit of horse-riding trails so that the information can be used for comprehensive assessment of benefit versus cost of these trails to the state, which contributes to the overall consideration of the equine industry and economic welfare of the residents.
This study will contribute to the effort already underway at the University of Kentucky, which examines the determinants of recreation demand for equestrian trails in Kentucky. We plan to determine consumer surplus values for trails in Kentucky as well as recommend either improvements in present equine trails and or location and characteristics of possible new trails. We also intend to derive spending patterns for equestrians that can be combined with secondary information to determine economic impacts.
2011 Project Description
Based on 236 observations obtained by sampling the equestrian riders in Kentucky and using conjoint analysis we obtained these results. The cost variables used in this study are associated with a negative utility coefficient; indicating that riders are less willing to go to a trail with entry fee or a trail that is farther away. Obviously, simply having a trail that is away from a rider's home or a trail that has an entry fee is not enough to keep riders away from trails. But in order for a rider to travel to a trail, the trail must have enough positively viewed attributes that the benefits of going to the trail outweigh the cost.
We find that the attributes with the highest positive willingness to pay values are scenic views and restricted use. Riders are willing to pay (or travel)an extra $36.70 (25.92 miles) to use a trail that has scenic views. Likewise, they are willing to pay $24.82 or travel 17.53 miles to go to a trail that may exclusively be used by horses. Trail length is also associated with a positive willingness to pay, but the value is much smaller than scenic views or restricted use. Riders are willing to spend $4.19 or travel 2.96 miles from home for every additional mile of trail. Therefore, the real valuation for trails that are longer is much higher than it first appears. For example, if a rider is choosing between a trail that is five miles in length and one that is ten miles in length (and the only other difference is in the cost of going to the trail), the rider would be willing to spend an extra twenty dollars to travel to the ten mile trail, per our results.
This implies that the trail length is similarly valued to scenic views and restricted use, even though the apparent willingness to pay per unit value is much smaller.
Policy makers need to be aware of these preferences. Trails that are not built to satisfy the target population will likely get little to no use. Kentucky has a large equine population, and a fairly large trail system. The problem seems to be the link between the trail and the rider.
One of the major implications of this study is the fact that while trail riders are willing to pay large amounts for a scenic view or a longer trail, there is not a lot of incentive to spend money and time traveling to the trail or entering the trail. This might seem simple at first; trails should be built closer to riders and they should be fairly lengthy and include scenic views. A lot of effort is currently being used to develop new trails for the equine community to use.
Our results provide some guidance into where the effort should be used. For example, our results suggest that the bulk of the effort should be focused on developing longer trails, instead of several short trails. Trail riders may also use these findings to talk with development organizations or government about preserving areas that are uniquely suited to trail riding, like old railway lines that go through beautiful settings.