Private Investment Will Jump Start Rural Economy

Ringed by miles of abandoned coal mines, the Wayne National Forest is surrounded by some of the most economically distressed communities in southern Ohio. A unique partnership with private investors, local leaders, a university, and nonprofit partners is helping to change that.

The Forest Service is working with the National Forest Foundation and Quantified Ventures to explore how an innovative finance mechanism can support an 88-mile multiuse trail on 9,000 acres of national forest land in Athens County.

Dubbed the Baileys Trail System, the project will serve as a case study for the Forest Service to assess the potential for funding deferred maintenance and new infrastructure projects by linking funding to measurable accomplishments through a system called Pay for Success. With this funding system investors provide up-front capital for work to be done, with repayment tied to the successful achievement of agreed-upon outcomes.

Connecting adjacent state and community trails, the Baileys Trail System is within driving distance of about 15 percent of the US population. It is expected to become a premier hiking and mountain biking destination east of the Mississippi – an evolution that will enable Athens County to diversify the regional economy through outdoor recreation and tourism.

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