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Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space

This white paper outlines the critical need for city parks, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods. It address the social, environmental, economic, health and community-development benefits parks bring to a city and its residents.
  • City parks and open space improve our physical and psychological health, strengthen our communities, and make our cities and neighborhoods more attractive places to live and work. Numerous studies have shown the social, environmental, economic, and health benefits parks bring to a city and its people.
  • Homebuyers prefer homes close to parks, open space, and greenery. In Boulder, Colorado, a greenbelt added $5.4 million to the total property values of one neighborhood. Other things being equal, there was a $4.20 decrease in the price of residential property for every foot one moved away from the greenbelt, and the average value of homes next to the greenbelt was 32% percent higher than those 3,200 feet away.
  • Parks attract tourists, filling hotel rooms and bringing customers to local stores and restaurants. As community signature pieces, parks offer a marketing tool for cities to attract businesses and conventions. Parks can be used to hold festivals, concerts and athletics events, bringing additional boosts to the local economy.
    • In Minnesota, Chain of Lakes received 5.5 million visitors in 2001, making it the state’s second-biggest attraction after the Mall of America. At Chain of Lakes, residents and tourists enjoy biking, walking, jogging, rollerblading or skiing around five city lakes attached by a 12-mile system of walking and biking paths. Each of the lakes is surrounded by parkland featuring a variety of amenities.
  • Green space in urban areas provides substantial ecosystem services. The U.S. Forest Service calculated that over a 50-year lifetime, one tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion.
  • A park’s trees store water, reducing the rate at which it flows into a city’s stormwater treatment facilities. Parks increase the amount of a city’s pervious surfaces, which allow rainwater to infiltrate into the ground. Incorporating trees and parks into a city’s infrastructure can decrease the necessary size of the city’s stormwater management system.
    • Garland, Texas’ tree cover prevents 19 million cubic feet of stormwater from having to be treated, a savings of $38 million. Building facilities to handle that amount of stormwater would cost $38 million. Instead of a flat stormwater treatment fee, the city now bases the fee on a property’s impervious surface and the volume of stormwater the property generates, encouraging property owners to plant more trees.