Parks: Not just a budget line item

From National Park Service Electronic Newsletter

October 2011 It can be easy these days to get caught up in the negativity of our sluggish economy. Everywhere, it seems, people are cutting back on spending. In such a climate, it becomes tempting for municipalities and states to look at their parks and say, “Sorry, but maybe next year.”

However, some folks would offer different opinions. Anne Schwartz in the Gotham Gazette argues that parks should not be ignored during economic downturns. Parks raise property values (hence property tax revenues, too), offer free or inexpensive recreation, and provide public health benefits from exercise. Additionally, state park attendance has had a noticeable bump up during the recent downturn, which means visitors were putting money back into local economies by spending on food and gear.

A State of Tennessee study finds that every $1 in its parks budget creates $17 in direct expenditures. The Trust for Public Land has documented the dollar value returned by parks in a wide range of U.S. cities and counties.

Here at Conservation + Recreation, we celebrate all the ways in which people benefit from enjoying their public parks, rivers and trails. But during an economic downturn, it’s timely to recognize the role these assets play as economic catalysts.

Parks become an even more valuable resource during tough times. Thinking of millions of families spending time together in a nearby park — and worlds away from the stresses of home — reminds us also that the benefits from parks aren’t merely financial.

Tip of the hat to Ken Parker

When Ken Parker retired as the president of a Rhode Island company, he clearly needed a new outlet for his energy and skills. Thus was launched the nonprofit French River Connection in Webster, Mass.

Ken leads by example; he puts his head down, works hard, and manages several projects at a time,” says John Monroe of the National Park Service. NPS staff have gotten to collaborate with Ken on numerous accomplishments including Perryville Trace, a woodland trail by the French River in Webster, Mass. That trail was originally supposed to be a simple ribbon-cutting, but blossomed into a town-wide festival complete with an encampment of Civil War re-enactors.

This past August, Ken worked with town officials from Webster to dedicate a riverfront park. The site had been an overgrown vacant lot until Ken reached out to the owner and helped arrange to lease the parcel for public use. The new park includes picnic tables and a canoe and kayak launch ramp, as well as native plants and special landscaping that filters pollution from stormwater runoff before it enters the river.

From the Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2011, issue

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