Economic Benefits of Greenways: a Summary of Findings

Adapted by The Conservation Fund’s American Greenways Program: Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails, and Greenway Corridors – National Park Service, 1990.

Real Property Values
Many studies demonstrate that parks, greenways and trails increase nearby property values, thus increasing local tax revenues. Such increased revenues often offset greenway acquisition costs.

A. California’s Secretary for the State Resources Agency estimated that $100 million would be returned to local economies each year from an initial park bond investment of $330 million (Gilliam, 1980).

B. A greenbelt in Boulder, Colorado increased aggregate property values for one neighborhood by $5.4 million, resulting in $500,000 of additional annual property tax revenues. The tax alone could recover the initial cost of the $1-5 million greenbelt in three years (Cornell, Lillydahl, and Singel, 1978).

C. In the vicinity of Philadelphia’s 1,300 acre Pennypack Park, property values correlate significantly with proximity to the park. In 1974, the park accounted for 33 percent of the value of land 40 feet away from the park, nine percent when located 1,000 feet away, and 4.2 percent at a distance of 2,500 feet (Hammer, Coughlin and Horn, 1974).

Expenditures by Residents
Spending by local residents on greenway related activities helps support recreation related business and employment, as well as businesses patronized by greenway and trail users.

A. Residents are increasingly spending vacations closer to home, thus spending increasing amounts of vacation dollars within the boundaries of the state (NPS 1990).

B. In 1988, recreation and leisure was the third largest industry in Califoraia. More than $30 billion is spent each year by Californians on recreation and leisure in their state. This amounts to 12 percent of total personal consumption (California Department of Parks and Recreation, 1988).

Commercial Uses
Greenways often provide business opportunities, locations and resources for commercial activities such as recreation equipment rentals and sales, lessons, and other related businesses.

A. Along the lower Colorado River in Arizona, 13 concessionaires under permit to the Bureau of Land Management generate more than $7.5 million annually, with a major spinoff effect in the local economy (Bureau of Land Management, 1987).

B. Golden Gate National Recreation Area has contracts with ten primary concessionaires. Total 1988 gross revenues for these concessionaires were over $16 million, over 25 percent of which was spent on payroll (NPS, 1990).

Greenways are often major tourist attractions which generate expenditures on lodging, food, and recreation related services. Moreover, tourism is Maryland’s second largest and most stable industry, and is projected to become its largest.

A. A poll conducted by the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors found that natural beauty was the single most important criterion for tourists in selecting outdoor recreation sites (Scenic America, 1987). Maryland’s Department of Economic and Employment Development estimated the annual value of tourism and commercial activities directly related to the Chesapeake Bay was $31.6 billion in 1989 (DEED 1989).

B. The San Antonio Riverwalk is considered the anchor of the $1.2 billion tourist industry in San Antonio, Texas. A user survey concluded that the Riverwalk is the second most important tourist attraction in the state of Texas (NPS 1990).

C. The Governor’s Committee on the Environment reported in 1988 that the governors of five New England states officially recognized open space as a key element in the quality of life in their region. They credited that quality of life with bringing rapid economic growth and a multi-billion dollar tourism industry to the region (Governor’s Committee on the Environment, 1988).

Agency Expenditures
The agency responsible for managing a river, trail or greenway can help support local businesses by purchasing supplies and services. Jobs created by the managing agency may also help increase local employment opportunities.

Corporate Relocation Evidence shows that the quality of life of a community is an increasingly important factor in corporate relocation decisions. Greenways are often cited as important contributors to quality of life.
The quality of life in a community is an increasingly important factor in corporate relocation decisions; greenways are often cited as important contributors to quality of life and to the attractiveness of a community to which businesses are considering relocating.

A. An annual survey of chief executive officers conducted by Cushman and Wakefield in 1989 found that quality of life for employees was the third most important factor in locating a business (NPS, 1990).

B. St. Mary’s County, Maryland, has found over the last ten years that businesses which move to the county because of tax incentives tended to leave as soon as the incentives expire. However, businesses that move to the county because of its quality of life remain to become long term residents and taxpayers (NPS, 1990).

C. Site location teams for businesses considering San Antonio, Texas regularly visit the San Antonio Riverwalk. A location on the river-walk is considered very’desirable; A regional grocer, the HEB Company, relocated its corporate headquarters to a historic building oriented towards the river (NPS, 1990).

D. The Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress reports that a city’s quality of Life is more important than purely business- related factors when it comes to attracting new businesses, particularly in the high-tech and service industries (Scenic America, 1987).

Public Cost Reduction
The conservation of rivers, trails, and greenways can help local governments and other public agencies reduce costs resulting from flooding and other natural hazards.
While greenways have many economic benefits it is important to remember the intrinsic environmental and recreation value of preserving rivers, trails and other open space corridors. Greenways along rivers can help reduce the cost of repairing flood damage and improving water quality.

A In a study of major land uses in Culpepper County, Virginia, it was found that “for every dollar collected from farm/forest/open space, 19 cents is spent on services’ “(Vance and Larson, 1988).

B. In Yarmouth, Maine, an analysis of costs of providing municipal services to a specific parcel proposed for parks showed that the annual costs of those services exceeded revenues generated by taxes by $140,000 annually. This was compared to an annual cost of $76,000 over 20 years to purchase the property (World Wildlife Fund, 1992).

C. In Boulder, Colorado, the 1988 public cost for maintaining developed areas was estimated to be over $2,500 per acre. The cost for maintaining open space in the city was only $75 per acre, or less than three percent the cost of non-open space (Crain, 1988)

From the American Trails website: