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More than 10,000 local parks and recreation agencies nationwide drive more than $200 billion annually in economic activity, according to a recent report.
Local public parks and recreation agencies throughout the U.S. generated nearly $218 billion in economic activity and supported nearly 1.3 million jobs, according to a report from the National Recreation and Park Association.
The report highlights the economic boost from local parks in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in 2019, the latest year data is available. The 10 states where parks drove the greatest economic activity were:
California – $23.6 billion
Florida – $15.9 billion
New York – $14 billion
Texas – $12 billion
Nevada – $11.1 billion
Illinois – $9.9 billion
Ohio – $7 billion
Colorado – $7 billion
Washington – $6.5 billion
North Carolina – $6 billion
The researchers took a broad approach in coming up with their estimates. They tally up the direct effects of parks and recreation agency spending, on costs like wages and equipment. But they also took into account indirect effects tied to vendor spending—for instance, if a contract landscaper purchases a mower, or hires a bookkeeping service. In addition, they include "induced effects," which factor in consumer spending by agency and vendor employees.
Preliminary data from 2020 reveal that the pandemic had minimal impact on park and recreation activities, according to the report.
In many places, parks, trails and other public spaces remained open during the pandemic, and some served as sites for meal distribution and Covid-19 vaccinations and testing. Estimates show operations and capital spending in 2020 generated $225 billion in total, although jobs fell to 1.25 million.
Besides their economic value, parks and recreation agencies promote health and wellness as well as conservation and resiliency that can increase property values and tourism, the report said. It urges policymakers and elected officials to provide greater and more stable funding: “Investments made to local and regional parks not only raise the standard of living in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, but also spark activity that can ripple throughout the economy.”
Research for the report was conducted by the association and the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University in Virginia. For more information from the report click here.
Jean Dimeo is a managing editor of Route Forty.