GreenWorks assisted METRO (the tri-county area regional government in Portland, Oregon) in analyzing a topic paper on the relationship between parks, trails, and open space and economic development. The project included review of existing research literature concentrating on this topic and interviews of local developers to discern their relationship to the development of parks and how parks may influence or spur possible economic development. Developers ranged in development types and in locations from urban to suburban. The topic paper provides a synthesis of findings that present the possibilities of locating parks, trails, and open space as focal points that complement complete communities. Parks, trails, and open space provide many environmental, social, aesthetic, and cultural benefits such as: community gathering places, a cultural centers, stormwater management, flood water storage, wildlife habitat, improvement of public health with recreational activities, and air quality to name a few.
While the many benefits that parks and open space offer community residents are easy to describe, they are typically harder to quantify. The need to quantify a financial value to parks, trails and open space has become more relevant in light of the decline of local and the national economy. Unfortunately, this value cannot be reduced to a simple number. Extensive research in Portland and across the nation has illustrated that open spaces, parks and trails can have positive effects on property values and can lead to proportionately higher property tax revenues for local governments. Historically, real estate with proximity to parks has exuded a prestigious distinction that merits a higher cost and resale value. The economic benefits of parks, trails and open space can transfer to development opportunities especially when parks are used as a catalytic impetus. The report from this project analyzes and illustrates the links between parks, trails, and natural resources and private development through an historical review, precedent studies and local developer interviews.