Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Economic Benefits of Trails, Parks, and Open Space in the Mat-Su Borough

Community assets such as trails, parks and public open space provide numerous  benefits of both economic and social value. These assets provide recreational  opportunities for residents, helping people to stay healthy and happy as access  to spaces for exercise increases physical activity and reduces medical expenses.  Recreation also stimulates the economy through the purchase of gear for activities,  services and guided tours. This economic activity creates jobs in recreational sales,  the hotel industry, tourism, and more. Public spaces enable all of these benefits  to happen. Without access to trails, parks and open space, these benefits would  be greatly diminished. This report summarizes the return on investment for these  community assets in the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Basin of south-central Alaska.  Both social and economic benefits are covered in this report. Social benefits  encompass recreation, tourism, human health, public safety, subsistence, and  cultural and historical benefits. Economic benefits include those from businesses,  tax revenues, and taxpayer savings.
[The study finds]:
  • Opportunities for physical activity in open spaces can decrease both health care  costs and   productivity losses, leading to more than $3 million in savings annually.
  • The high cost of natural disaster recoveries, not to mention the loss of human life,  can be  minimized with well-planned open space preservation.
  • The estimated annual value of ecosystem services of the 1,438 acres of Mat-Su  Borough owned recreational land is over $1.8 million.
While the figures above paint a positive image of Mat-Su public open spaces, the ROI  analysis was crucial to determine the actual costs and benefits of spending money to  enhance and preserve open space in the Mat-Su. As Chapter 5 details, we reached  a result of a 5.31 return on investment for the Mat-Su Borough owned lands alone, meaning that for every dollar that the Borough invests in open spaces, the payoff is more than $5, an astoundingly good return.
by Maya Kocian
Earth Economics
December 11, 2015
The Full report is available free of charge at

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