Protected open spaces - public parks, preserved farmland, and private conserved lands - provide substantial economic, environmental, and public health benefits to surrounding communities. These benefits, however, are generally not well understood and are often undervalued in policy debates and investment decisions. In the interest of fostering a better understanding of these benefits, this study estimates the economic value generated by protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania. Approximately 14 percent of the land area in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties is protected open space. This area includes parks and trails such as Ridley Creek State Park and the Schuylkill River Trail, working farms across southeastern Pennsylvania, and private land trust owned or eased lands.
Building off of previous valuation studies and using standard economic analysis techniques, this study estimates the value of protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania by measuring impacts across four areas: (1) the effects of protected open space on residential property values, (2) the value associated with environmental services provided by southeastern Pennsylvania's protected open spaces, (3) the value of recreational activity on protected open space and associated avoided health-care costs, and (4) jobs and revenue created as a result of activity on and connected to protected open space.
This analysis indicates that protected open space adds significant value to the regional economy (see right), with benefits accruing to businesses, governments, and households. The economic benefits generated by protected open space accrue in different ways - some are direct revenue streams to individuals or governments, some represent asset appreciation value, some accrue in the form of avoided costs. Because these values differ in nature, the estimates in this study should not be added together to produce a single aggregate value of protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The estimates presented in this study should provide elected leaders, policy makers, and the public with a new perspective on the value of protected open space and contribute to informed decisions concerning future development in southeastern Pennsylvania. It is important to note, however, that this study does not analyze the costs associated with acquiring, preserving, or maintaining land as protected open space, and does not represent a cost-benefit approach.