Economic Impacts of Montgomery County’s Parks
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This project’s goal is to analyze how the presence and quality of local parks and open spaces affects adjacent property values and the local economy, and to gauge the public perception of parks in Montgomery County to better understand public opinion and concerns surrounding parks. This project will also recommend how those concerns can be addressed to make stakeholder groups more likely to support the activities of the County’s Department of Parks. We assessed opinions of property owners, businesses, developers, and residents in Montgomery County and beyond through on-line and in person surveys. Respondents were asked to assess park amenities by personal preference, state their willingness to pay a premium to live and work near a public park, and share other information on their perceptions of public green spaces in their area. Using these survey result as well as literature reviews, we found a trend of increasing property values near parks, a perception of increasing business activity due to the presence of parks, and an increased attraction of visitors and residents to an area because of parks. We also determined that parks benefit the natural ecosystem in a way that offers significant monetary value and that can benefit the local economy in the form of saved public utility costs and personal health benefits. The surveys also provided information on trends in public opinion about parks. The most favored park amenity was paved trails, while the least favored amenity was skateparks. Overall, respondents’ opinions were quite positive and any concerns they had were related to safety in parks. Our research and surveys enabled us to determine four distinct recommendations for the Department of Parks. The first is to implement popular amenities. The surveys showed that paved trails were the most popular amenity, followed by family-oriented activities and dog parks, and these amenities can greatly help to generate a more positive perception of parks. The second recommendation is to create educational programs to help people better understand the economic and social benefits parks can provide, especially their benefits to the natural ecosystem. When people better understand those benefits, they will be less likely to oppose new park plans. The third recommendation is to continue to develop a safe atmosphere within parks. One of the main concerns is that parks can foster crime, so if the Department of Parks were to heavily advertise their safety measures, such as displaying signs about security camera systems or advertising that the parks are under constant surveillance, people may feel safer and be less concerned about a park in their neighborhood. Finally, more surveys should be conducted. By continuing to survey the public’s perception of their parks, the Department will be able to tailor services to residents and visitors as preferences and demographics change. We believe that following these suggestions will increase the economic benefits of parks in Montgomery County.
Final project for ENSP400: Capstone in Environmental Science (Fall 2017). University of Maryland, College Park.