The commercial recreation industry faces new opportunities due to the changing economic climate and its impact upon public recreation providers (Outdoor Industry Association, 2012). Those recreation opportunities historically offered by public entities are transforming and as a result recreationists are experiencing more park closures, limited hours of operation, a reduction in quality, and ultimately dissatisfaction (Crompton, 1999; Koeberer, 2011). There is a shift occurring and this opens up a wide market for new commercial recreation operators to fulfill this gap. For trail-based recreation this usually requires a sizable piece of land that often precludes most potential market interests. However, with a new approach to commercial recreation enterprise via partnerships, this market can be better utilized while serving a distinct population.

The Kingdom Trails Association (KTA) in northeastern Vermont is a model success story for this type of partnership enterprise and offers valuable information for other entrepreneurs wishing to create similar opportunities. KTA provides 110 miles of well-designed trails on 57 different private land owner parcels and two public sites. Facing similar challenges of a commercial business, they have grown to fulfill a new niche in trail-based recreation and now draw over 60,000 visitors a year, have an economic impact of more than $5.6 million, and are entirely self-funded. The story of how this entity grew from an idea by a few local mountain bikers to become “Best Trail System in North America” (Bike magazine, 2008), and “Best of New England” (Travel and Life, 2011), provides a unique look into developing trends in outdoor recreation and ways that commercial interests can serve them.


recreational trails, partnerships, trail system development, commercial recreation