In addition to the health, recreational and safety benefits of trails in Santa Claus, the number one reason for adding this infrastructure is the potential impact it can have on the county’s top single source of revenue: TOURISM. A 2011 Study done for the County Tourism Bureau estimated that 19% of all county revenue and 4,500 jobs are related to the tourism industry.
Even at that, the growth of this region has been stagnant since 2000:
- Population of the county has remained flat at about 20,000. Population in the county between 1970 and 2000 grew from about 17,000 to 20,000. During that same time Santa Claus grew by 2,500.
- Spencer County residents are growing older. In 2000 the average age was 39.0. In 2010 that number was 41.9; we are disproportionately losing our 20-39 year old population and the younger people leave for school and jobs.
- Retail Sales in Spencer County have remained flat since 2004 at about $800 million.
- While employment numbers are up, household income is dropping.
- To create growth, we need a catalyst. We believe that these trails will serve as that stimulus in the following respects:
A.) Increased retail development leading to an increase in jobs that will help to increase population and an increase in tax revenue.
B.) Increased time spent in the area by tourists to explore those trials.
C.) An increase in visits to our town outside of the peak season of June-September.
D.) Increased property values.
Recognizing the need for these trails, the Town Council of Santa Claus started the process with the Yellig trails in 2011. Subsequently new trails were added to connect the Town Hall with the Community Center in 2014 and the Kaspar Gate Trail.
With federal and state matching (80/20) grants in the amount of $8 million, the town is now poised to construct 4 new trails between 2015 and 2017. This will add about 7 miles of 12 foot wide asphalt biking and hiking trails, connecting points of interest in and around the town.
The Trails of Santa Claus, Inc. was formed to fill the gap between federal and state funds available and the total amount needed to complete the trails without a need for increased taxes.