Budget-setting officials often see parks funding as more discretionary than other local government provided services. During economic downturns, local government investments in parks decline disproportionately to other governmental services. Government services always compete for their share of the pie, forcing local officials to make difficult fiscal trade-offs even when the municipal finances seem to be in good shape.
Our elected officials say they value parks. Earlier this year, NRPA commissioned a nationwide study of 810 local government officials from all 50 states. Among the findings, nearly all local government officials:
- Believe their communities benefit from parks
- Believe parks prevent youth crime and enhance their community’s quality of life
- Personally use their local parks
While park advocacy groups are getting creative, they’re also making sure city administrators and finance directors understand the ways parks and playgrounds contribute to their community’s economic development.
No Business Like New Business
Cities and towns want to attract business development – especially established businesses that are expanding to new areas. Company leaders, for their part, want to come to cities where the quality of life will attract and retain highly educated and motivated employees. Quality of life includes low crime and good schools. It also includes parks, bike trails, and other infrastructure that promotes healthy living.
Sure, the “bottom line” (profits) may be top-of-mind for business leaders, but evidence also suggests that companies are placing importance on recreational opportunities for their workers’ families.
In an increasingly competitive environment where multiple companies offer similar salaries, a job seeker’s decision about where to work might hinge the quality of life where their prospective employer is located. That’s why today’s business leaders demand outdoor activities to enhance the quality of life for their employees when they are deciding where to open up shop or move their operations.
More Key Economic Benefits
It turns out the economic benefit of playgrounds and parks isn’t limited to attracting new business. Here’s one case study to consider. According to The Trust for Public Land’s 2017 Economic Benefits of Parks and Recreation in Colorado Springs, CO, that city’s parks:
- Boosted the value of residential properties by $502 million
- Increased annual property tax revenue by $2.58 million annually
- Drew about $135 million in visitor spending
- Generated $6.36 million in local tax revenue
- Sported local jobs by increasing spending at local businesses
What You Can Do
As an advocate for parks and playgrounds, there are a few things you can do to make sure play areas get prioritized appropriately when it comes to funding from local government officials.
- Tailor your messages and presentation to provide evidence about how parks and playgrounds attract new business development.
- Build relationships with business development groups such as chambers of commerce and trade unions. If you manage a community resource where meetings can be held, serve as an active partner in their activities by offering to host their meetings and events, for example.
- Identifying opportunities to stimulate community efforts to attract and retain businesses could be an effective way to increase its stature in the eyes of local government officials. To this end, NRPA has commissioned both an update to the Economic Value of Local Parks study and a new research project that will enumerate how parks and recreation is an economic development tool for the community. Look for these resources in early 2018.
- Find data specific to your state about the economic impact of local parks. Share this information with your city council and other stakeholders. Use other municipalities as a guide on how to go about this. For example, The City of Columbia, MO has conducted extensive research into the ways parks and playgrounds benefit the area economically as well as culturally.
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