Tag: Lewis and Clark Trail

trail development and tourism

Trails are defined generally as marked paths. With such a simple definition, trails can come in many forms, such as walking trails, biking trails, hiking trails, and multi-use trails. A trail can be a short walking path that connects a community or a hike to the summit of a mountain. For example, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a driving route of connected towns, metropolises, national parks, natural areas, and historic sites that span more than 4900 miles!

While other forms of tourism engage the traveler with another area’s social, historical, and cultural elements, trail tourism is a form of “slow tourism.” It encourages the traveler to actively engage and experience the land itself that they are visiting. Slowing down in our fast-paced society is what makes trails so rewarding and worth experiencing. These locations draw tourists to see beautiful areas and landscapes in person. Trail tourism also provides many benefits, such as protecting the environment, boosting the economy, and preserving the culture of the surrounding community.

Environmental and Social Benefits of Trails

As trails come in many forms, walking or biking trails that run through towns can serve as valuable forms of eco-friendly transportation. In fact, trails also come with many environmental benefits. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, trails:

  • Reduce air pollution by providing a cleaner form of transportation.
  • Reduce road runoff and soil erosion
  • Reduce flooding

Utilizing walking and biking trails also greatly benefits the trailgoer in the form of public health. The Rails to Trails Conservancy published a report in 2019 that showed the use of trails successfully connects residents to their destinations by walking or biking, which reduces health problems and consequently reduces the cost of health care.

Economic Benefits of Trails

Trails also stimulate the economies of surrounding communities. As tourists come to experience the trail, they also bring money into the area. According to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, during the summer of 2017, visitors to Mt. Helena who used the trail system brought over $4 million into the area.

In 2013, the Outdoor Industry Association published a study that found that trailgoers spent an average of roughly $60 for one one-day trip, while bikers spent roughly $43 for one day trip. The Outdoor Industry Association also estimated that trail-based recreation generated

Trail Development at Gola National Park provided jobs to the community

a total of $353,489 spent in Connecticut, and bicycle-based recreation resulted in $704,067 of spending.

As trails support the development of an area’s environment and economy, they are a great way to revitalize depressed towns. A conservation organization funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources called WePreservePA found that trails attract businesses because they beautify the town or city. Trails were also a significant factor in a homebuyer’s decision to move to a town. This means that the development of trails can not only bring in money through attracting visitors and improving the environment and the health of those already living in the area, trails also attract new businesses and new residents!

There are several examples of the many benefits of trail development, such as the Camino de Santiago, the Lewis and Clark National Trail, and the trails in Liberia.

1. Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James, is a historic pilgrimage route with deep cultural and spiritual significance. Stretching across various paths that converge towards Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, the Camino has drawn pilgrims for centuries. Its origins can be traced back to the medieval times when it was believed that the remains of Saint James the Apostle were interred at the city’s cathedral. Today, people from around the world embark on this journey for a myriad of reasons—spiritual reflection, personal growth, adventure, or cultural exploration. The Camino offers a unique experience of walking through picturesque landscapes, quaint villages, and historical sites, all while fostering a sense of community among pilgrims from diverse backgrounds.

The Camino de Santiago radiates economic benefits across the regions it traverses. This historic and spiritual pilgrimage route draws diverse travelers from around the world, stimulating local economies by generating demand for various goods and services. This includes accommodation, food, transportation, and souvenirs. The hospitality industry witnessed a significant upswing as hotels, hostels, and guesthouses accommodate the pilgrims. Local restaurants and cafes experience heightened patronage, offering traditional cuisine and nourishment to weary travelers. Moreover, transportation services such as buses and taxis thrive as pilgrims navigate different segments of the route. The pilgrimage also fosters cultural and heritage tourism, leading to visits to historic sites, museums, and local attractions, thereby injecting life into local economies. The rejuvenation of historic religious buildings along the route preserves cultural heritage and generates employment opportunities through restoration and maintenance projects. In essence, the Camino de Santiago catalyzes economic vitality, breathing life into the communities that line its path.

According to the Economic Analysis and Modeling Group, travelers of the Camino provide the same economic impact as 2.3 domestic visitors despite only making up 2.3% of total tourist expenditure. While exact numbers are difficult to pin down due to the number of trails considered part of the Camino and the sheer number of visitors every year, according to an analysis referenced by the Milken Institute Review, visitors to the Camino increased the economy of local communities by roughly one-fifth.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

When looking at the impact that trails have in connecting communities and enhancing development, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT) is a perfect domestic example. Following the steps of North American pioneers’ journey towards the West, the trail crosses a total of 16 state lines covering around 4,900 miles of distance, making it the longest official trail in the United States.

The LCNHT has the particularity of not being a traditionally marked trail with a clearly defined itinerary. The Lewis and Clark expedition of the early 19th century covered so much ground from Pittsburgh all the way to the Pacific Ocean that the modern itinerary is approximative. This loosely defined trail includes even more alternatives to the tourism experience.

The absence of official physical trail results in many communities and businesses being unaware or simply undiscovered of some of the itineraries previously recommended online. Since 2016, Solimar International has worked with the National Park Service and partnered with the Lewis and Clark Foundation, the Lewis and Clark Trust, and various individual counties to include and connect as many experiences as possible along the trail. 

A traveler-focused LCNHT website now serves as a platform for over 1,500 businesses that lie along the trail. An interactive map serves as a source of reference that connects various experiences ranging from immersion in Indian reservations to small history museums that commemorate the history of America’s earliest explorers.

On top of the economic growth that stems from heightened tourist exposure, developing such an extensive network for the trail was a golden opportunity to tell the stories of communities that had previously not been included. Beyond the physical trail, it was key to provide a platform to link the thousands of people who now live and embody the landscapes that Lewis and Clark once discovered on their trailblazing journey, which changed the course of US history. 

Indigenous Voices

The LCNHT goes through 15 Native American reservations, giving many tribes the opportunity to offer access to their interpretation of history and their own cultural context as it pertains to their land. As Lewis and Clark traversed West, Native American tribes were key to the success of their expedition. The two explorers often sought to find tribes to trade goods and equipment necessary for the trip, which naturally makes the interpretive history of the concerned Indian reservations a key factor to fully understanding the story.  When Solimar International first started working with LCNHT, there was much less content available to tourists. Local businesses that may have been overlooked in the past have a unique opportunity to be showcased through the website’s inclusion of the various cultural centers on the trail and be listed as local guides. It’s important to intertwine indigenous history with the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 

Liberia Trail Development

The country of Liberia is home to half of the remaining rainforest in West Africa. Until recently, the beauty of Liberia was hard to fully appreciate as it lacked a proper trail system. Constructing well-intentioned trails in Liberia’s rainforests holds the potential for significant benefits. These pathways could bolster ecotourism, allowing visitors to experience the rainforest’s biodiversity and contribute to local economies. These designated trails would minimize ecological impact, safeguarding the fragile ecosystem. Moreover, these routes could serve as educational resources, heightening awareness about rainforest conservation and nurturing environmental stewardship. The establishment of well-maintained trail networks might also facilitate scientific research, enabling experts to comprehensively study the region’s diverse flora and fauna, thus furthering global conservation endeavors.

Solimar International finished trail development in Liberia in June with the help of the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia. After partnering with the US Forest Service, seen as the gold standard in trail development, the project developed trails running through two protected areas, the Gola National Forest and Lake Piso.

The area surrounding Gola National Forest is primarily sustained by the gold mining industry. The development of these trails hopes to provide economic and environmental alternatives. Local residents made up the crew that worked on the trails. Community involvement in the trail development brought the first of hopefully many jobs to the area. They built 20 kilometers of trails in just ten weeks! Communities gain new life as the trail tourism industry draws people to trails unique to the area.

Lake Piso is a gorgeous coastline that runs for hundreds of miles. There’s a shipwreck that catches the attention of tourists who once followed a slippery, dangerous natural path out to see it. Due to recent trail development, paths running through Lake Piso generate revenue through an admission fee, allowing for better protection of the wildlife and the environment. The money generated to monitor the area will prevent instances of illegal tree harvesting and sea turtle poaching. Now that trails have been built, tourists can safely explore one of the best surf spots in West Africa in a controlled environment that minimizes impact on nature. It will also allow researchers the ability to get deeper into the park.

The Shipwreck Trail allows people to safely explore previously dangerous parts of Lake Piso

Overall Benefits of Touristic Trails

Trails encompass a wide spectrum of marked paths, catering to various forms of recreational activities like walking, biking, and hiking. They can span from short community connectors to extensive journeys like the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, a 4,900-mile route tracing the footsteps of pioneers. Unlike other forms of tourism, trail tourism, known as “slow tourism,” encourages a direct engagement with the land, promoting a deeper connection with nature and local communities. Such trails offer significant environmental advantages by reducing pollution, erosion, and flooding, while promoting public health. Economically, trails inject funds into local economies through tourism, benefitting businesses, boosting property values, and creating jobs. Notable examples like the Camino de Santiago demonstrate the economic vitality and cultural preservation fostered by pilgrimage routes. The Lewis and Clark National Trail showcases how trail networks can connect communities and businesses, while also highlighting the stories of diverse voices, including indigenous perspectives. Even in Liberia, rainforest trail development offers a promising path to ecotourism, biodiversity protection, and environmental education. Solimar International’s efforts in Liberia’s Gola National Forest and Lake Piso reveal how trail networks can revitalize communities, protect ecosystems, and drive sustainable economic growth. Through their multifaceted benefits, trails stand as valuable assets that bridge nature, culture, economy, and community.

Keep up with Solimar’s work on trails such as the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Liberia Project – don’t forget to like us on Facebook and LinkedIn

Blog by Ethan Hamlin and Matteo Coleta

livingstone aerial shot with river

What exactly is Sustainable Tourism, and why should I care?

According to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, sustainable tourism is the practice of acknowledging the impacts of tourism, both good and bad, to minimize environmental and economic damage while spurring job creation along with cultural and wildlife preservation. Here at Solimar International, we help destinations create a culture of sustainable economic growth, social inclusiveness, and the preservation of environmental, cultural and natural heritage. When discussing culture, it’s important to emphasize the roots of a destination, both big and small. Small towns in the United States are the backbone of American culture, and often have so much more to offer than meets the eye. Supporting the local economy of these areas allows for their cultures to be sustained and brought to light in a new way. As a traveler, you have so much power to effect positive change through the destinations you choose. One example is Livingston, Montana. In this blog, we’ll tell you why supporting towns like Livingston, Montana is the future of sustainable tourism.

The Last Best Place, and Why it Deserves the Nickname

Montana is the Future of Sustainable Tourism
Tourists skiing in Montana

Big Sky County with Big Opportunity

The state of Montana, often referred to as “The Last Best Place”, can be categorized this way for a few key reasons. One, the state is home to 10 national parks, most notably Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Montana is known for its vast landscapes and serene atmosphere that create a sense of tranquility that is hard to emulate. Montana is the perfect year round destination with fantastic winter activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, and dogsledding, as well as summer activities such as hiking, fly-fishing, and horseback riding. Fly-fishing in Montana is world renowned for its top quality outfitters and Trout specimens along the Yellowstone River, while Big Sky is home to the biggest skiing runs in America. Out-of-state tourism generated $2.60 billion to the Montana economy in the year 2020, with the in-state revenue bringing the total to a combined $4.4 billion. Since tourism is one of the largest economic sectors in the state, it is vital to use this momentum to propel counties forward that otherwise may not see an equal share of tourists to their neighbors. 

Benefiting the Small Town

The town of Livingston has a poverty rate of 14.5%, compared to the national average of 11.4%. Many factors have led to this statistic, including seasonal occupations, lack of job creation, and marketing short comings. Small towns like this could benefit greatly from economic growth through tourism, and Montana already has the infrastructure set up. At Solimar International, we recognize the gap between what these areas can offer, and what is being projected to the general public. We work to close that gap by offering an extensive marketing plan to highlight what makes a destination unique. We work closely with the local job force to create a DMO (destination management organization), which aligns with the cultural and historical values of the area. 

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience in Montana

Solimar’s involvement with the Lewis and Clark Trail

At Solimar International, we are currently working to promote the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail through the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience. In partnership with the National Park Service, this website promotes sustainable tourism and cultural education through 16 different states. The website offers an interactive map highlighting different places to stay, historical sights, and activities along the trail. The site aims to educate travelers about the cultural heritage of the land, while also highlighting areas that may otherwise not get the same level of visibility. In Montana, for example, there are seven tribal territories, with the Lewis and Clark trail going through many of them. The website offers a great opportunity for visitors to learn more about Indian reservations, while also directly supporting their economy. Overall, in Montana there are 40 counties located on the Lewis and Clark Trail. All 40 counties offer unique experiences, but one in particular that stands out is Park County, home of Livingston. 

Why Livingston, Montana Should be Your Next Stop

Montana is the Future of Sustainable Tourism
View point of Yellowstone River in Montana

Outdoor Activities in the Wild, Wild West

Livingston is a small town located within scenic Park County. The town is along many visitors’ paths to Yellowstone National Park, making it a convenient destination. Tourism has been a tremendous driver recently in their economic growth, and they continue to capitalize on this momentum.  Livingston is home to world-class fly-fishing as it runs adjacent to the Yellowstone River. The river is world-famous for its fly-fishing, and is a tourism driver within itself. The Yellowstone River runs for 103 miles, all being designated blue ribbon fishing, meaning it qualifies as an extremely high-quality fishery. Fishing in Montana can often be described as “therapeutic”, as many who try it are hooked for life. Another outdoor activity common to the area is white water rafting. With many top-rated outfitters, rafting guarantees a thrilling experience for the whole family. Lastly, Montana is known for its “cowboy culture”, which certainly is in abundance in Livingston. Horseback riding adventures are offered daily, providing a unique experience to all riding levels. 

Entertainment and Museums in the Wild Wild West

classic small town settings in Montana
An image of town life in Montana from the 20th century

Livingston has so much more to offer than just outdoor activities. From museums to shopping and everything in between, there is something for everyone. The Livingston Depot Center, now a museum, was initially the first railroad launch point for Yellowstone National Park. It is now used as a cultural landmark to educate visitors about the history of the Yellowstone region and the animals that reside in it. Another museum is the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, commemorated as a part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This museum houses geological and historical artifacts. Famous local eateries include Mark’s In & Out, a 1950’s burger joint, and Yellowstone Valley Grill, an upscale farm to table restaurant. The most notable place to stay in town is the Murray Hotel. The hotel is the oldest in town, built in 1904 as accommodation for railway passengers. Some of the more notable visitors have included Whoopi Goldberg, The Queen of Denmark, and Will Rogers. 

We constantly want to create connections between travelers and the path to making an impact. If you want to learn more about sustainable tourism, and how it directly impacts the communities around you, visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website today. We’re also always happy to have a personalized conversation to discuss strategic planning. Contact us to learn more.

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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