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A conservative economic analysis was prepared to analyze the economic benefits of increased river-related use. This summary highlights major findings. The entire analysis is provided in Appendix C.
The availability of whitewater rafting and whitewater parks on the Truckee River will draw overnight and out-of-town visitors to the area. With a fully developed whitewater park and rafting opportunities, the Truckee Meadows could see as many as 100,000 users annually, many of whom will be out-of-town visitors.
Rafting on the Truckee River through Reno, NV.
In addition to recreational use, whitewater parks provide a venue for professional and amateur competitive events. With such a facility, it is possible for the Reno/Sparks area to host sanctioned events such as a championship series, Olympic team trials, and the U.S. National Championships. The park and river improvements will also attract casual boaters, national caliber athletes, and Olympians for events and training opportunities. There are no permanent whitewater parks west of the Rocky Mountains. Whitewater parks in the Reno/Sparks area would be the first of their kind in the region.
It is important to note that other recreational pursuits that can occur along the river corridor such as fishing, riding bicycles, running, walking, and swimming rank among the top recreational pursuits enjoyed by Americans. According to the National Sporting Goods Association exercise walking and swimming were the top two sports in terms of total participation while fishing and bicycle riding ranked 5 th and 6 th in total participation in 1999.
The ability to attract visitors to the area could have significant economic benefits. Whitewater enthusiasts tend to be younger, averaging between the ages of 35-54. Seventy percent are married, 65 percent hold at least a four-year college degree, and have an average $75,000 to $125,0000 in total household income.
A whitewater park on the Truckee River is ideally located. It is near major population centers (western Nevada, Central California, and the San Francisco Bay Area), and it is surrounded by other outdoor recreation opportunities. The location and access to major transportation facilities (I-80 and U.S. 395) are ideal for attracting rafters and kayakers who travel across the western United States during the summer months. The park and river improvements would likely receive immediate national exposure from visitors coming to the Reno/Sparks and Tahoe area each year. A number of communities across the United States have organized whitewater festivals in conjunction with competitive river events. The Boulder Creek Festival in Boulder, Colorado draws approximately 300,000 local and non-local participants and spectators over the course of the event. With its tourism/visitor focus and experience with large special events, the Reno/Sparks area is well suited to host similar venues. Additionally, the area can draw upon 10 local and regional whitewater paddling clubs to support and promote competitive events. There are also several national level organizations that work with local communities to promote whitewater related events.
Many whitewater parks have improved fish habitat and ultimately resulted in the construction of walkways and pike paths to improve overall opportunities. These improvements in turn increase housing values, promote community involvement, and attract and retain employees to local businesses. In some cases, businesses have opened near whitewater parks to support and promote the water sports venues (American Whitewater, 2000)
The expected levels of river use and participation at organized events on the Truckee River are based on a review of communities with similar facilities, organized events, and whitewater rafting opportunities. Table 8-1 shows estimated ranges of use for organized events and casual use at the proposed whitewater park. Such use is quantified in terms of total visitor nights. The economic analysis model used the low end of the range for expected visitor night use.
|DURATION OF STAY
|Event Participant||60-180||5-12 nights||300-2,160|
Total commercial whitewater rafting use on the Truckee River is expected to range from 10,000 to 50,000 user days annually based upon a review of several rivers throughout the United States. Whitewater rafting opportunities will generate substantial visitor use. In other areas of the country, visitors comprise as much as 50 to 75 percent of the river rafting use. The economic analysis model assumed approximately 20,000 users annually. An estimated 16,000 users are expected to utilize commercial outfitters for rafting trips down the Truckee River. Depending on the quality of experience, the Truckee River could generate destination overnight visitors for the Reno/Sparks area.
The results of the economic analysis predict that river related uses would generate an economic impact of approximately $1.9 to $4.1 million, annually. This level of economic activity is projected to generate 33 to 67 jobs and generate tax revenues in the amount of $123,000 to $263,600, annually. It is important to note that the economic model assumptions are conservative in terms of total use and recreational expenditures when compared to the range of expected use in Table 8-1. The potential maximum level of use could result in a total annual economic impact to the Reno/Sparks area that is 3 to 5 times the amount estimated by the conservative model.
There is significant potential for maximizing whitewater rafting and increasing the number of overnight visitors and day trip visitors as well as the level of expenditures made in the local economy. The economic analysis conducted for this report assumes no overnight visitors for whitewater rafting and a level of daily expenditures that is significantly less than expenditures typically made at other whitewater rafting rivers. This analysis assumed that Truckee River whitewater rafting would generate $59 per user per day whereas the actual economic impact could be as high as $154 per user per day.
Increasing the level of use on the Truckee River will depend on a number of factors such as the willingness of the community to promote events and river use, and the overall quality of the experience as a result of the constructed facilities.
The cost to construct the improvements is estimated to be just over $2.8 million with very limited operational expenditures. The return to the community in terms of total annual economic impact would exceed the original investment within one or two years.