NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- It turns out that living near Mother Nature offers more than just scenic surroundings – it might also improve your home’s value.

That’s the conclusion drawn by two University of Cincinnati researchers in an advanced look at a new report set for release on Sunday. The researchers – Rainer vom Hofe, an associate professor of planning, and Olivier Parent, an assistant professor of economics – created a housing value model that measures the economic impact of nature trails “from a real estate perspective”.

As a barometer, the two researchers specifically used the Little Miami Scenic Trail – a 12-mile ribbon of nature trails that runs through the Cincinnati metropolitan area with bike paths, horseback riding paths, and trails for walkers, bikers and joggers, all within an otherwise urban area. The researchers found that homeowners within a “reasonable” distance of the trail saw their home values rise.

In fact, the report says that homebuyers are willing to pay a $9,000 premium to be 1,000 feet closer to the Little Miami trail. (In other words, home prices went up $9 for every foot closer to the trail’s entrance.)

“For the ‘New Urbanist’, multipurpose trails provide the potential for bicycle commuting; help alleviate noise, pollution and congestion, and expand the means for green transportation and a community’s walkability,” the report says.

In addition, vom Hofe and Parent say that local government tax dollars should go toward building even more nature parks and trails as a “solid investment” to improve local home values.

It’s an interesting proposition. Americans increasingly don’t have the money to take big vacations, so living near a park or nature trail gives them a cheap and highly enjoyable means of relaxation.

Despite the good news for those living near nature trails, the rest of the country isn’t faring so well. According to Case-Schiller, which regularly tracks U.S. home values, home prices fell an average of 20% from 2008 to 2010, although the firm’s 20-city housing value index is showing signs of life heading into the last quarter of 2011.

“While we have now seen four consecutive months of generally increasing prices, we do know that we are still far from a sustained recovery,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, in a statement on Sept. 27. “Continued increases in home prices through the end of the year and better annual results must materialize before we can confirm a housing market recovery.”