The Citizens of Wildomar are currently making a major decision, possibly the biggest decision relating specifically to their city that they will make for many years. The decision at hand is, "Does Wildomar Want Parks?"
There are so very many things to think about when considering that question. Having parks, and parks themselves, reflect the personality of the community. Parks provide many different things: sports locations, walking trails, playgrounds, locations for community events and many different types of overall recreation.
Right now I would like to discuss the financial benefits of parks. The American Planning Association (APA) has researched what, if any financial benefit does a community receive from parks. They found that, "Parks provide intrinsic environmental, aesthetic, and recreation benefits to our cities. They are also a source of positive economic benefits. They enhance property values, increase municipal revenue, bring in homebuyers and workers, and attract retirees.
"At the bottom line, parks are a good financial investment for a community. Understanding the economic impacts of parks can help decision makers better evaluate the creation and maintenance of urban parks."
This is a pretty strong statement to make. While we all can appreciate parks at one level or another, how can you directly show financial benefit? Well, the APA researched the issue in depth and found several historical factors from different areas of the nation that all showed the same thing: Parks are financial engines for communities.
I am including two of their key points. One key point is how real property values are positively affected by parks and the other is how municipal revenues are increased by a community having parks.
KEY POINT #1:
Real property values are positively affected.
More than 100 years ago, Frederick Law Olmsted conducted a study of how parks help property values. From 1856 to 1873 he tracked the value of property immediately adjacent to New York City's Central Park, in order to justify the $13 million spent on its creation. He found that over the 17-year period there was a $209 million increase in the value of the property impacted by the park.
As early as the 19th century the positive connection between parks and property values was being made. Olmsted's analysis shows the real dollar amount impact of parks. His study was not a unique situation, however. Several studies conducted over the last 20 years reaffirm his findings, in cities across the country. Below are more examples of how proximity to a park setting is connected to property values.
Chattanooga, Tennessee: In the early 1980s this city was facing rising unemployment and crime, polluted air, and a deteriorating quality of life. To lure middle-class residents back, local government, businesses, and community groups decided to improve the quality of life by cleaning the air, acquiring open space, and creating parks and trails. As a result, property values rose more than $11 million, an increase of 127.5 percent.
Atlanta, Georgia: After Centennial Olympic Park was built, adjacent condominium prices rose from $115 to $250 a square foot. As noted on the Centennial Olympic Park website, "Thousands of people who have made the move to downtown Atlanta have chosen Centennial Olympic Park as their front yard."
Amherst, Massachusetts: Cluster housing with dedicated open space was found to appreciate at an annual rate of 22 percent, compared to a comparable conventional subdivision's rate of 19.5 percent. This translated in 1989 dollars to a difference of $17,100.
KEY POINT #2:
Municipal revenues are increased.
Another component of the Central Park study was an assessment of increased tax revenue as a result of the park. The annual excess of increase in tax from the $209 million in property value was $4 million more than the increase in annual debt payments for the land and improvement. As a result of building Central Park, New York City made a profit.
Increased property values and increased municipal revenues go hand in hand. Property tax is one of the most important revenue streams for cities. By creating a positive climate for increased property values, the tax rolls will benefit in turn. As shown with Central Park, parks can both pay for themselves and generate extra revenue. In addition, tax revenues from increased retail activity and tourism-related expenditures further increase municipal monies.
Property Tax Benefits
Chattanooga, Tennessee: Improvements in Chattanooga resulted in an increase in annual combined city and county property tax revenues of $592,000 from 1988 to 1996, an increase of 99 percent. (Lerner and Poole, 1999).
Boulder, Colorado: The presence of a greenbelt in a Boulder neighborhood was found to add approximately $500,000 in property tax revenue annually.
Sales Tax Benefits
Oakland, California: The presence of the East Bay Regional Park District is estimated to stimulate about $254 million annually in park-related purchases, of which $74 million is spent in the local East Bay economy.
Shopping Districts: Surveys indicate that prices for products in districts with trees were on average about 11 percent greater than in no-tree districts; the quality of products were rated 30 percent higher than in areas with no sidewalk landscaping.
Atlanta, Georgia: Centennial Olympic Park has an estimated 1.5 million visitors each year, attending 175 public events.
San Antonio, Texas: Riverwalk Park, created for $425,000, is lined with outdoor cafes, shops, bars, art galleries, and hotels, and has overtaken the Alamo as the most popular attraction for the city's $3.5-billion tourism industry.
These is little doubt from the research that parks provide direct financial benefit to the communities they support, but it's up to the community to support them as well. Parks provide so much for our families, our children and our community in general, I urge you to please Vote Yes on "Measure Z" in the upcoming election.