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Home » Library » Pennsylvania’s Return on Investment in the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund

Pennsylvania’s Return on Investment in the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund

The Trust for Public Land conducted an economic analysis of the return on Pennsylvania’s investment in land and water conservation through the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund and found that every $1 invested in land conservation returned $7 in natural goods and services to the Pennsylvania economy.
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Key Findings:

Land and Water Conservation

Natural Goods and Services: Lands conserved through the Keystone Fund provide valuable natural goods and services such as air pollution removal, water quality protection, and stormwater management. For example, protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania provides a value of $10.9 million in water quality enhancement services and $318 million in air pollution removal services annually. The Trust for Public Land analyzed lands conserved by the Keystone Fund and found that every $1 invested in land and water conservation returns $7 in economic value of natural goods and services to Pennsylvania.

Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Impact: Land conservation supports a robust tourism industry by creating outdoor recreation destinations and maintaining the scenic beauty of the state’s countryside. In Pennsylvania, outdoor recreation generates $21.5 billion in spending, $1.6 billion in tax revenue, 219,000 jobs, and $7.2 billion in wages and salaries. Visitors to state parks spend $859 million annually at local businesses contributing to a total economic impact of $1.15 billion and 12,630 jobs in a variety of industries and businesses in the state.

Enhanced Property Values: Protected open space is viewed as an amenity by homebuyers who are willing to spend more to live near these areas. Publicly owned open space has the greatest positive impact on adjacent property values of all land use types in a recent Berks County study. In southeastern Pennsylvania, protected open space adds $16.3 billion to the value of homes and generates $240 million in additional annual property and transfer tax revenues.

Reduced Local Taxes: By helping communities conserve land, the Keystone Fund saves taxpayers money. Open space and working lands contribute more in taxes than they require in municipal services such as infrastructure, schools, and fire and police protection. Residential land, on the other hand, typically contributes less in taxes than it requires in services. Studies of 15 Pennsylvania communities found that open space and working farms and forest require only $0.18 in services for every $1 generated in tax revenue while residential land requires $1.26 for every $1 generated.

Quality of Life: Conserved lands contribute to a high quality of life by providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, improving air and water quality, and maintaining the character of communities. Quality of life is one of the most important factors skilled workers consider when choosing where to live and work. Therefore places with a high quality of life are where businesses want to locate. Forbes ranked Pennsylvania as the state with the sixth best quality of life in the nation making the category the state’s top competitive advantage among states.

Leverages Private and Local Dollars: By attracting support from other sources, the state maximizes its investment in land conservation. From 1995 to 2012, the Keystone Fund leveraged $205 million in matching funds from private sources and $116 from local sources for conservation. That is, every $1 of Keystone funding was matched by $2.16 in additional contributions (i.e., the Keystone Fund paid $0.32 for every $1 worth of land and water conservation).

Parks, Trails, and Recreation

Job Creation: The Keystone Fund creates jobs directly by funding the development and maintenance of state and local parkland and park facilities. One national study found that off-street multi-use trails generate 9.57 total jobs per $1 million invested. Bicycle infrastructure projects create even more jobs – 11.41 per $1 million. The Fund also supports restoration activities in state parks. According to one study forest and watershed restoration creates as many as 23.8 jobs per $1 million invested. By comparison, investments in coal and oil yield only 6.9 and 5.2 jobs per $1 million, respectively.

Visitor Spending: Urban and community parks draw visitors who spend money at businesses nearby. According to one study, approximately 41 percent of tourists to Philadelphia visit a park during their trip spending $115 million annually. Similar benefits provided by trails are highlighted by the Great Allegheny Passage trail system which generates more than $40 million in annual visitor spending and $7.5 million in wages.

Enhanced Property Values: Parks and trails boost neighboring property values. Parks in the New Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia increase the value of houses within ¼ mile by 10 percent. All of the city’s parks together increase the market value of nearby residential properties by a combined $689 million, which generates an additional $18.1 million in annual property tax revenues for the city.

Cultural Institutions

Libraries: Library investments create jobs, save residents money, and inject money into local economies. According to national estimates, Keystone investments in library facilities generate approximately 17 to 19 jobs for every $1 million invested. Without libraries, Pennsylvania library users would have to pay $964 million more to get the same information plus $84 million in costs from not being able to find alternative sources of information. Libraries also contribute to the state economy through $68 million in annual in-state purchases and $180 million in annual wages paid to library employees.

Historic Preservation: Historic preservation projects create new jobs, stimulate investment in local communities, revitalize neighborhoods and downtowns, enhance tax revenue, increase tourism and visitor spending, and contribute to a high quality of life. Over 2,300 historic preservation projects in Pennsylvania spanning over 30 years generated $17.1 billion in economic output and 148,000 jobs. Tourists to heritage sites and areas spend $1 billion each year for a total economic impact of $2.9 billion and 37,000 jobs. Historic sites and areas have also been found to significantly increase the value of nearby properties. While these numbers aren’t attributed to projects specifically supported by the Keystone Fund, they highlight the magnitude of the economic impacts associated with historic preservation.

Higher Education: The Keystone Fund provides grants to the 14 state universities of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) contributing to the system’s statewide economic impact. The job impact is substantial – all but two of the 14 universities are among the top 15 employers in their respective counties. In 2004, PASSHE was the 15th largest employer in the state with a statewide impact of 51,200 jobs. The total economic impact of the system was estimated to be $4.47 billion, equaling 1 percent of the entire Gross State Product.


Project support was provided by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, and the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds (FPW) in partnership with Richard King Mellon Foundation. FPW is an environmental nonprofit serving Pennsylvania’s water quality needs.

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Last modified by Nate Lotze

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