Parks and the economy

By Paige DeChambeau | Mar 20, 2013

Are parks good for the economy? Though park economic research is still in its infancy, there are many reasons that show, overall, parks are good for the economy.

The science has yet to be tested, but it is up and coming in academia. It is difficult to determine the economy of parks for several reasons.

First, counting the number of people who come and visit parks isn’t easily done. Most of the time, accurate numbers aren’t kept about visitors.

It is also challenging to measure quality of life and what makes a good community. We all know that parks help, but how much they help is difficult to quantify.

And how do you put a price on the advantages of having a park nearby that you can walk through and clear your head? What is the price you’d put on clean air, clean water and the preservation of endangered species?

So what is it that we can measure? There are seven criteria that can be measured when you are looking at parks and the economy: Property value, tourism, direct use, health, community cohesion, clean air and clean water.

Though there aren’t any standardized formulas to measure most of these variables, they do exist. They are just often very complex in nature. The most compelling of the arguments have to do with the direct income and direct savings of parks.

The direct income of parks comes from the tourists that visit the parks and the surrounding municipalities.

When people visit the park, it is likely they will stay for a while and get lunch at a local eatery. If they have come from far away, they will stay the night and pay for a hotel room.

The other way that parks create direct income is through the increase in property taxes. This is not only good for the homeowners who live near parks and see increases their home’s overall value, but it is also good for the municipality.

More property taxes bring in more revenue for the municipality as whole. With more income, it means more services that can be provided by and for the city.

What about direct savings? Well, this is where it gets a little tricky, but in general there are formulas that can be used to calculate what it would cost in a cleanup effort, say for carbon, and how sequestration from trees of that same carbon will save a city money in the long run.

Parks, of course, bring savings for residents. It brings residents a personal savings by the fact that if they can use the park for recreation, they might save by not spending their money on something like a gym membership.

This also reflects on the overall health of the system. With healthier residents there is a healthier healthcare system pool. Thus, there is a savings on the health system overall. This saves us all money.

Parks also promote community cohesion. This can lead to direct savings when it comes to crime.

When parks aren’t well maintained and are therefore considered unsafe, however, it might be a hindrance on the community has a whole. That is why it’s important to make sure all parks are carefully maintained.

You can help do that by joining the Japanese Gulch Group’s work party that meets every first Sunday of the month at 1 p.m. at the Mukilteo dog park. Volunteers help by putting the bridges back together or cleaning off some of the mud that piles up.

As mentioned before, parks help to promote clean air and clean water just by their very nature of being a park instead of something else, like a Costco or a factory. More trees mean more carbon sequestration and more filters for water that goes into larger waterways like the Puget Sound.

In Washington, for example, outdoor recreation creates $22.5 billion in consumer spending, creating 227,000 direct Washington state jobs.

It creates $7.1 billion in wages and salaries, $1.6 billion in revenue through taxes.

An average of 2.7 million people fish, hunt and watch wildlife every year. These activities contribute to more than $4.5 billion into the state’s economy.

This money helps to support jobs and small business around the state – especially in rural areas.

Also, did you know that 1.2 million people purchase state fishing or hunting licenses from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) every year? Or that 163 million salmon, steelhead, trout and other warm-water fish are reared in state hatcheries and then released every year?

Or that 1,900 acres of beach are restored every year in the Puget Sound?

Parks help the economy and our communities. Now that the weather is getting warmer, please show your support of local parks by visiting them and enjoying the fact that they are there.

April 20 is Earth Day, so set some time aside to find a project and help support the parks around the region.

Washington state has some of the most beautiful parks in the world. We are lucky that we all live within 10 or 15 minutes of one. Parks give so much to us – let’s make sure to give back to them.

Paige DeChambeau is the director of the Japanese Gulch Group. She is leading the Save the Gulch 2.0 campaign to purchase and preserve nearly 100 acres of undeveloped land in the Japanese Gulch as parks and open space.

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