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Livable Places: How Protecting Land Benefits Us All

Investing in parks and natural areas yields fiscal relief, improved public health, strengthened neighborhoods, environmental protection, and the preservation of natural beauty, all of which makes communities more livable. Open space protection does not “cost”; rather, it “pays”. Examples include San Antonio, Texas’ Riverwalk Park, which was created for $425,000 and is now the most popular attraction of the city’s $3.5 billion tourism industry, and New Jersey, where the $65 million protection of the Sterling Forest from a proposed development avoided the construction of a $160 million water treatment plant.
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Investing in parks and natural areas yields fiscal relief, improved public health, strengthened neighborhoods, environmental protection, and preservation of natural beauty, all of which makes communities more livable. Evidence of this comes from academic research and first-hand experience of community leaders and government officials who have found that open space protection does not “cost” but rather “pays.”

  • People prefer to buy homes close to parks, open space and greenery. In Boulder, Colorado, residential property prices decrease by $4.20 for every foot away from the area’s greenbelt. Homes next to the greenbelt were valued 32% higher than those 3,200 feet away. In Oakland, California, a three-mile greenbelt around Lake Merritt, near the city center, adds $41 million to surrounding property values.
  • In 2005, farm receipts nationally reached $239 billion and farms generated $74 billion. However 2,880 acres of agricultural land are lost to development each day. In San Antonio, Texas, Riverwalk Park was created for $425,000. It is now the most popular attraction of the city’s $3.5 billion tourism industry, even more popular than the Alamo.
  • Land preservation can be a cost effective approach to flood prevention. Near Boston, the purchase of more than 8,000 acres of wetlands along the Charles River was an alternative to a $100 million system of dams and levees. After $500 million in flood damage from the Napa River between 1960 and 1998, California spent $160 million to restore the river to its natural, meandering state to prevent further flood damage.
  • In New Jersey, a coalition of state and nonprofit partners protected the Sterling Forest from a proposed development with $65 million. If the proposed development had occurred, it would have necessitated the construction of a $160 million water treatment plant.

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Last modified by Nate Lotze

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