Today, I am presenting to the annual conference of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association on the costs and benefits of open space, with Jenna Fletcher, project coordinator of Embrace Open Space. View my part of the presentation here, and see Jenna's presentation here.
Intuitively, we all agree that parks, open spaces, greenways and natural areas have economic value. The real estate marketplace recognizes this: Studies consistently indicate that residential property owners pay up to a 30% premium to live within walking distance of a park. Similarly, access to bike and pedestrian infrastructure such as greenways also boosts property values.
Despite a surge in academic and practitioner analysis of open space premiums, many policy makers continue to view parks as cost centers, as opposed to stable assets that consistently support social and economic activity, as well as tax base, located nearby.
The case for identifying the benefits of open space more effectively is important. In addition to its relationship to residential and commercial property values, local policy stands to be improved by better information about the economic value of the physical activity, non-motor transportation, stormwater management and other benefits.
We have the tools in the form of property data sets and GIS analytics. We have the need to respond to overwhelming budget pressure. And we need urban design that helps rather than hinders our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these factors call for a change in the way we understand, talk and make decisions about the role of open space in our cities and towns.