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How Much Value Does the City of Philadelphia Receive from its Park and Recreation System?

Key Message

Increased property tax due to the increase in property value of certain residences because of their proximity to parks came to $18.1 million in fiscal year 2007.

Sales tax receipts from tourism spending by out-of-towners who visited Philadelphia primarily because of its parks came to $5.2 million for the city of Philadelphia.  These factors also bolstered the collective wealth of Philadelphians—by $688.8 million in total property value and by $40.3 million in net income from tourists. 

Source

The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence. (2008). How Much Value Does the City of Philadelphia Receive from its Park and Recreation System? Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Parks Alliance.

Purpose

The parks and park programs of Philadelphia – from the Fairmount Park system to the activities and facilities of the Philadelphia Recreation Department to the broad touristic reach of Independence National Historical Park – provide Philadelphians with so many joys and benefits that many residents would not want to live in the city without them.

Although the system was not created specifically as an economic development tool, there is a growing realization that the parks of Philadelphia are providing the city with hundreds of millions of dollars of value. This value, for the first time, is being defined. Not every aspect of a park system can be quantified – for instance, the mental health value of a walk in the woods has not yet been documented and is not counted here; and there is no agreed-upon methodology for valuing the carbon sequestration value of a city park—but seven major factors are enumerated—clean air, clean water, tourism, direct use, health, property value and community cohesion.

METHODOLOGY
Based on a two-day colloquium of park experts and economists held in October, 2003 (see Appendix 2), the Center believes that there are seven attributes of Philadelphia’s park system that are measurable and that provide economic value to the city. (For a listing of studies done on these issues by participants in the colloquium as well as others, see Appendix 3.) What follows is a description of each attribute and an estimate of the specific economic value it provides. The Calculators and the Attachments can be obtained from The Trust for Public Land, or they can be accessed on-line at this address: www.TPL.org/PhilaParkValue.

Evidence

While the science of city park economics is in its infancy, the numbers reported here have been carefully considered and analyzed.  Two of the factors provided Philadelphia with direct income, to the city’s treasury. The first is increased property tax due to the increase in property value of certain residences because of their proximity to parks. This came to $18.1 million in fiscal year 2007. The second consists of sales tax receipts from tourism spending by out-of-towners who came to Philadelphia primarily because of its parks. This value came to $5.2 million for the city of Philadelphia. (Additional tax revenue went to the state of Pennsylvania.) Beyond the tax money, these factors also bolstered the collective wealth of Philadelphians—by $688.8 million in total property value and by $40.3 million in net income from tourists. Three other factors provided Philadelphia residents with direct savings. By far the largest is via the human value of directly using the city’s free parkland and recreation opportunities instead of having to purchase these items in the marketplace.

This value came to $1.01 billion in 2007. Second is the health benefit—savings in medical costs—due to the beneficial aspects of exercise in the parks. This came to $69.4 million. And third is the community cohesion benefit of people banding together to save and improve their neighborhood parks. This “know-your-neighbor” social capital, while hard to tabulate, helps ward off all kinds of anti-social problems that would otherwise cost the city more in police, fire, prison, counseling and rehabilitation costs. This value came to $8.6 million in 2007. The last two factors also provided savings, but of the environmental sort. The larger involves water pollution reduction—the fact that the trees and soil of Philadelphia’s parks retain rainfall and thus cut the cost of treating stormwater. This value came to $5.9 million in 2007. The other concerns air pollution—the fact that park trees and shrubs absorb a variety of air pollutants. This value came to $1.5 million. The park system of Philadelphia thus provided the city with revenue of $23.3 million, municipal savings of $16.1 million, resident savings of $1.01 billion and a collective increase of resident wealth of $729.1 million in 2007.

Additional Information

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Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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