While surrounded by the rolling fields and wildlife at the ChesLen Preserve, Chester County officials – along with representatives from municipalities, land conservation organizations, and economic development agencies – celebrated the 30th anniversary of open space preservation and the economic benefits of these efforts during an Open Space Summit May 2.
As part of the summit, the Chester County Commissioners announced results of a study, Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Chester County, and unveiled a video about the report. The video highlighted the valuable economic, environmental, and public health benefits that open space preservation has provided to Chester County for the past three decades.
As of December 31, 2018, 28.8 percent of land, or 140,000 acres, in Chester County has been preserved as protected open space. This is an increase of 3,700 acres since 2017 that includes significant farmland preservation and state and municipal park expansions. Chester County has preserved more land than the size of Philadelphia.
Here are some of the highlights of the report:
- Homes in the county are valued at over $11,000 more when they are located within a half-mile of preserved open space, according to the study. In total, it’s a gain of more than $1.65 billion for Chester County’s homeowners and economy.
- If protected lands were lost to development, Chester County would need to spend $97 million a year to replicate vital services such as flood control and air and water pollution mitigation through costly alternative methods.
- Recreational activities on open space account for over $170 million in avoided medical costs every year.
- Open space creates jobs and attracts people who spend in the community. Each year open space accounts for $238 million in spending and $69 million in salaries. Protected farmland puts about $135 million back into the economy each year, and preserved open space accounts for roughly 1,800 jobs in Chester County.
- It’s less expensive to preserve land than to develop it. For every $1 received from farmland and open space taxes, local governments spend 7 cents on services. For every $1 received from residential developments through taxes, local governments spend $1.11 on services.
The report was prepared by Chester County departments, municipal representatives, land conservancies, economic development agencies, and Econsult Solutions, Inc., an economic consulting group.