Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Economic Benefits of Protected Open Space

A new report is available on the economic benefits of open space.

Here is part of the press release:

Conservation and planning leaders today released a new study demonstrating for the first time that preserved open space throughout southeastern Pennsylvania generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits.

Commissioned by the GreenSpace Alliance and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the study quantifies the value of open space in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. The study – the first of its kind for southeastern Pennsylvania – examines the economic benefits associated with preserved open space in four key areas: property values, the environment, recreation and health, and jobs and revenue.

“Our farms, forests, stream valleys and parks are more than just pretty places,” said Joseph M. Hoeffel, chairman of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. “They are productive assets that generate significant economic value for our region.” Hoeffel, along with Molly K. Morrison, chairwoman of the GreenSpace Alliance Board, announced the findings of the study at a news conference at Valley Forge National Historical Park. They were joined for the announcement by dozens of other elected leaders along with open space proponents and representatives from businesses that have benefited from nearby preserved open space.

Approximately 14 percent of the land, or 300 square miles, in the five-county region is preserved open space. The study found that this open space provides substantial economic benefits. Specifically, this space:
• Increases homeowner’s property values by an average of $10,000 per household;
• Saves local governments and utilities more than $132 million a year in costs associated with environmental services such as drinking water filtration and flood control;
• Helps residents and businesses avoid nearly $800 million in direct and indirect medical costs and saves businesses an additional $500 million in workers’ compensation costs and costs related to lost productivity;
• Generates more than $566 million in annual spending, $299 million in annual salaries and $30 million in state and local tax revenue, and
• Supports nearly 7,000 jobs.

The report was prepared by prepared by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Econsult Corporation and Keystone Conservation Trust.

The full report is 72 pages long, with some really nice color photos. There are the requisite charts and graphs, showing the economic, health, and social benefits of protected open space, with a few case studies (for example, the Radnor Trail, Clark Park, and the Perkiomen Trail) pulled out and highlighted. I skimmed it and found it really interesting, specially the health aspects and the types of businesses created near the open space areas.

The information would be useful to local organizations and officials trying to create outdoor amenities (parks and trails), entrepreneurs creating business plans, and those interested in public policy. The success stories in the case studies will provide some good examples and good responses to naysayers.

Providing the economic impact of open space keeps it from being pigeon-holed as just a tree hugger feel good activity. The report also shows the tax and revenue creating impact of protected open space.

All in all a good resource.

Two bits of trivia mentioned at the press conference by DCNR Deputy Secretary Cindy Dunn: Valley Forge was Pennsylvania’s first state park, and William Penn stipulated in 1681 that for every 5 acres cleared, 1 acre should be left forested. Now you know.

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