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Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania

More than just pretty places, preserved open spaces contribute to our local economies and property values, they help us save on everything from health care to recreation, and they perform valuable ecosystem services that naturally improve the air we breathe and the water we drink. Included in this library item are both the full study and a study summary.


Open Space Enhances Home Values.

  • Open space adds $16.3 billion to the value of southeastern Pennsylvania’s housing stock.
  • Protected open space generates $240 million annually in property tax revenues to support county and municipal governments and local school districts

Open Space Protects property, filters drinking water, and cleans the air.

  • Southeastern Pennsylvania realizes nearly $61 million in annual cost savings from protected open spaces’ ability to naturally filter out pollutants and replenish water supply
  • The total annual benefit generated by natural flood mitigation services is more than $37 million
  • Trees on protected open space are estimated to provide $17 million in annual air pollution removal and carbon sequestration services

Open space furnishes low - or no cost recreation that saves money and improves health.

  • Responses to the 2009 statewide outdoor recreation survey indicate that, on average, 41% of moderate or strenuous physical exercise is performed in a park or on a trail
  • Nearly $577 million in benefits accrue annually to residents who participate in recreational activities on protected open space within southeastern Pennsylvania
  • Each household in the region saves $392 per year by having open space available for recreation and exercise
  • The health-related cost savings resulting from physical activity on protected open space amount to $1.3 billion per year including avoided workers’ compensation costs and avoided productivity losses
  • $795 million of those health-related cost savings are medical cost savings

Open space creates jobs and attracts people who spend in our communities.

  • Economic activity associated with protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania results in more than 6,900 jobs and $299 million in annual earnings
  • Total annual expenditures in the five-county region associated with protected open space equal $566 million . Specifically $174 million , or 31% , is attributable to spending associated with the management and maintenance of publicly protected open space; $206 million, or 36%, accounts for agricultural sales associated with preserved farmland; and $187 million , or 33% , is generated through tourist activity associated with protected open space
  • Agricultural jobs associated with protected farmland make up 45% of employment related to protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania, totaling 3,100 jobs
  • Economic activity associated with protected open space generates $30 million per year in state and local tax revenue