Protected open space provides substantial economic, social, and environmental benefits to surrounding communities, but these impacts are often overlooked or undervalued in policy debates and budgeting decisions. However, the comprehensive, interconnected benefits to communities gained from public investments in protected open space can be quantified. Evaluation of the impacts can bring about a better understanding of how protected open space contributes to economic wellbeing and fiscal stability, building resiliency, while helping to reverse a common misconception that conserved undeveloped land is non-productive and non-revenue producing.
Working with communities and advocacy organizations, Econsult Solutions has prepared county-wide return on investment in environment assessments that reveal the value of the array of benefits that open space and trail infrastructure impart. In the Greater Philadelphia region, four counties have turned to ESI to conduct these evaluations.
By 2019, land conservation efforts in Chester County, PA had resulted in over 200 square miles of protected open space. Natural Lands Trust, the Chester County Planning Commission, and a coalition of business leadership commissioned Econsult Solutions to update a 2010 report on the economic value of open space in the county. This analysis found that protected open space contributes to the economic wellbeing of the community in four key ways:
Mercer County New Jersey’s emphasis on land preservation began over 30 years ago, resulting in a multitude of preserved parks and open spaces that reflect the diversity of Mercer County’s natural features. Using standard input-output modeling techniques and multipliers, Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) translated open space and environmental protection investments into the commensurate impacts on the Mercer County and New Jersey economies. ESI estimated the ramifications of this composition of economic activity on annual and life-time benefits to tax revenues to the County and the State.
The results of the analyses and the case studies were reported in a digital-friendly document, and an executive summary ready to distribute to county decision makers. Additionally, Econsult Solutions distilled the report into a presentation of findings for county planning officials to use in public meetings.
Officials in Montgomery County, PA set out to provide the public with a report that demonstrates the significant value that open space protection adds to the county economy, articulating the benefits for businesses, governments, and households. They engaged Econsult Solutions and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to conduct a series of analyses that quantify the impacts on:
Each of these categories of impacts include subset measures that each contribute to the overall economy of the county. The report includes case studies of local parks and protected open space to highlight the benefits imparted to the community.
Delaware County can be characterized as a diverse and densely populated suburb with limited availability to increase the amount of protected open space. Econsult Solutions worked with the county council, planning department, and an advisory committee to develop a county-wide return on investment in protected open space report which is intended to contribute to informed decision making concerning both the preservation and the development of areas within the county. The analyses of key open space benefits measure the value of:
This report includes several case studies which provide illustrative examples of how these impacts are realized.