The Economics of Open Space
Open space preservation not only benefits the environment and enhances quality of place, it can also benefit residents when it comes to tax time. It often costs a municipality less to buy selected open land than for residents to pay the higher taxes that result from development to build additional schools, to improve roads and to increase municipal services. Some studies have indicated that when a community buys and preserves land rather than allowing houses on every farm field, they break even on their investment within a few years.
Increased Property Values: When we preserve open space, we make our communities more desirable places to live by enhancing:
- Attractive settings Wildlife and natural area accessibility Recreational opportunities
- Environmental education possibilities
Seizing these opportunities increases the property values surrounding the preserved space.
Corporate Relocation: Many reports indicate that a high quality of life attracts new businesses, which in turn build a local economy. Land preservation improves quality of life by providing access to:
- Natural settings Convenient health-enhancing activities
- A calming visual respite from a busy work environment
Supply and Demand: If we extinguish our supply of open space within our community, there will no longer be a demand for tourists to visit and spend money here.
Visitor Services/Travel Industry: According to the travel and tourism industry, more people take weekend and weekday trips rather than extended vacations. Open space and parks provide unique resources that draw visitors to community businesses, thus creating revenue. Communities along parks and trails can provide revenue-generating visitor services, including:
- Recreational equipment sales and rentals, Special events, Food, Lodging
- Convenience items
Preserving Land so our Outdoor Economy can Thrive
Expenditures by Residents: Busy families enjoy recreation leisure activities. Recreation expenditures account for substantial portions of family spending for things like:
- Physical Fitness/Health
- Camping and Fishing
- Equestrian Uses
- Environmental Education Courses
- Scientific Study
- Special Events
Public Cost Reduction: By selectively conserving open space and parks rather than permitting intensive development, local agencies can reduce costs for public services such as sewers, trash, water, and roads. The cost of providing these services to development often outweighs any revenue to local governments resulting from an expanded tax base. Buying open space also costs less than paying the increased school tax that results from adding more families to a community.
A thriving outdoor, tourism-based economy requires that we protect and save the great outdoors!
Community Cultivation: Preserved open space not only enhances a community’s physical appearance, it also defines an area’s character. Eagle County has so much natural beauty that deserves to be preserved. When a community comes together to preserve something they can all share in, its residents discover ways to:
- Appreciate history and make others aware of its value
- Improve family cohesion
- Take pride in local heritage and culture
- Establish a preservation legacy
- Improve public health
- Encourage volunteerism
- Explore stewardship and environmental ethics
Additional studies can be found by following the links listed below. Each link will open in a new window.
- A Return on Investment: The Economic Value of Colorado’s Conservation Easements - Jessica Sargent-Michaud, The Trust for Public Land
- Conservation: An Investment that Pays – The Economic Benefits of Parks and Open Space - Erica Gies, The Trust for Public Land, 2009
- The Health Benefits of Parks – Erica Gies, The Trust for Public Land, 2006
- Report: Federal Lands Driving Colorado Economy – Denverpost.com, 2012
- Conserving public lands helps rural counties thrive, study finds – Billings Gazette, 2012
- Outdoor Recreation Tied to $256 Billion in Spending, 2.3 Million Jobs – The Denver Post, 2012
- Fact Sheet: The Economic and Tax-Base Benefits of Land Conservation - The Land Trust Alliance, 2011
- Fact Sheet: Conservation Easement Tax Credit – Colorado Environmental Coalition, 2012
- Cost of Community Services Studies – American Farmland Trust, 2002
- The Economic Impact of Protecting Rivers, Trails and Greenway Corridors – National Park Service & NRTC, 1995
- The Economic Benefits of Open Space - Stephen Miller, 1992