Parks and Economic Development

PAS Report 502

By John Crompton

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Parks and open space are not just beautiful, they are economically beneficial, too. But parks advocates and planners must be able to demonstrate that open spaces and recreational areas contribute to the community's economic vitality before local officials will lend their support. Securing and keeping political and financial support often requires repositioning a proposed project or facility in the minds of elected officials and other decision makers.

This report explains how to measure and report the positive economic impact of parks and open space on the financial health of local businesses and government. Impact studies, graphs, charts, and other aids included in the report show how these contributions more than compensate for local tax dollars spent on acquiring, upgrading, and maintaining parks and other outdoor recreational areas. For example, parks planners can use a variety of economic impact measures, including sales, personal income, and employment, to show the positive economic effect on a community of visitors to parks and related attractions.

Repositioning is a difficult, long-term process that requires changing entrenched public and bureaucratic attitudes and practices. Nonetheless, repositioning parks issues-aligning them with local economic development efforts-is both necessary and feasible. Once linked politically and psychologically with economic vitality and development, parks and open space projects are far more likely to find favor and sustained support from both elected officials and the general public. The report describes three different strategies that parks planners and agencies may use, alone or in combination, to reposition parks issues.

This report is sponsored in part by the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the American Planning Association's City Parks Forum. It is the second in a series of three reports by the City Parks Forum.

The first report is Parks, Recreation, and Open Space (PAS 497/498) by Alexander Garvin.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Jan. 1, 2001
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Table of Contents



1. Repositioning park and recreation services
The concept of positioning • The set of repositioning strategies

2. The impact of parks and open space on real estate values and the propery tax base
The basic principle-the proximate principle • Potential negative influences on property value • The empirical evidence on the proximate principle for greenways • The relative service cost efficiencies of parks and open space • Using the planning tool kit with the proximate principle

3. Attracting tourists
The role of economic impact studies • The basic principles of economic impact studies • A review of the economic impact of 19 recreation events • Presenting economic impact results to make the economic case

4. Attracting businesses
The role of quality of life • The role of recreation and parks in quality of life • The relationship between parks advocates and economic development agencies 𔄲 Concluding comments

5. Attracting and retaining retirees
The appeal of retirees • The role of recreation amenities • Implications


Appendix A: A list of references


"The second report in the series on parks sponsored by the City Parks Forum makes the cases for the positive bottom line impacts of parks and open space on both the public and private sectors. This report focuses on the economic development benefits of parks and recreation services. These benefits include the enhancement of real estate values, and the attraction of tourists, businesses and retirees to communities.

"Crompton argues that too often investment in parks and recreation services is viewed as discretionary and non-essential. In order to attract more spending for growth and maintenance, local governments need to be convinced that parks do contribute to economic development. This report introduces the analytical tools that help make convincing arguments.

"This report is not for the casual reader but for those who want to create arguments for funding or be able to assess the competing arguments made by developers versus open space advocates. Gain an understanding of economic impact studies and the caveats in interpreting measures of impact. Learn more about the principle of capitalization of parkland into increased property values and the subsequent impact on taxes. Get insight into the appeal of attracting retirees to your community."

—ANJEC Report, Spring 2003