In 2010, the City of Virginia Beach requested that The Trust for Public Land carry out a study of its park and recreation system based upon seven attributes of parks that provide cities with measurable economic benefits. Not every aspect of a park system can be quantified—for instance, the mental health dollar value of a walk in the woods has not yet been documented—but the factors enumerated in this study are: clean air, clean water, tourism, direct use, health, property value, and community cohesion.
View the report: The Economic Benefits of the Park and Recreation System of Virginia Beach
Two of the factors provide Virginia Beach with direct income to the city treasury. The first is additional property tax revenue from the increase in value of certain residences because of their proximity to parks. This value came to over $2.2 million in 2010. The second consists of sales tax receipts from spending by tourists who visited Virginia Beach primarily because of its parks. This value came to more than $8.4 million.
Other factors bolstered the collective wealth of city residents—by $10.2 million in added value from property sales and by over $295 million in net income from tourist spending, including $66 million from sports tourism and adventure tourism.
Two other factors provided Virginia Beach residents with direct savings. By far the largest is the money residents save by using the city’s free parkland and recreation opportunities instead of having to purchase these benefits in the marketplace. This value came to over $337 million. Second is the health benefit—savings in health care costs from the beneficial effects of exercise in the parks. This came to more than $38 million.
The last three factors provided savings to city government. First, the trees and soil of Virginia Beach parks cut the cost of managing stormwater—a benefit that would not exist if parkland had been developed for residential or commercial purposes. This value came to more than $1 million. Second, vegetation in parks absorbs a variety of air pollutants, saving the city more than $4.5 million. Third is the community benefit of people banding together to improve their neighborhood parks. This “know-your-neighbor” social capital helps ward off antisocial problems that could otherwise cost the city more in police, fire, prison, counseling, and rehabilitation expenses. This value saves the city more than $3.9 million.
In 2010, the park system of Virginia Beach thus provided the city with revenue of $10.6 million, a collective increase in resident wealth of more than $305 million, resident savings of $375 million, and municipal savings of just under $10 million.