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Economic Impact


Health and Wellness

Mental Health

Property Values

Public Support and Demand for Services

Reduction of Crime



Economic Impact:

The economic impact of tourism in Chicago's parks is around $1.4 billion. Chicago Park District's Economic Impact.

17% of the total tourism in Chicago is due to parks. Chicago Park District’s Economic Impact.

In Chicago, Millennium Park has been credited with a $1.4 billion boost to local residential development, yet, golf courses show the most consistent positive impact on property values of any open space type. “Go To 2040".

According to a 2005 Illinois analysis by Economics Research Associates, parks and conservation areas alone represent a $3 billion industry that employs 62,900 people who earn a collective $621.8 million in wages and benefits and account for $16.7 million in state income taxes. “Go To 2040”.

Outdoor recreation expenditures exceed many other sectors including automobiles and gasoline combined. “The Outdoor Recreation Economy” 2012.

A 2012 measure of all outdoor recreation spending in Illinois represents more than $22 billion in consumer spending; $6.7 billion in wages and salaries, $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue and 204,000 jobs directly related to outdoor recreation. “The Outdoor Recreation Economy” 2012.

The demand for outdoor recreation supports nearly 6.5 million jobs (2014) and promotes growth in rural areas. “Outdoor Participation Report” 2014.

Restoring forest preserves creates more than $8 for every $1 spent. “Deer Grove East – Openlands” 2016.

A synthesis of more than 70 studies using the cost of community services (COCS) approach determined that public costs associated with residential development exceeded public revenues that accrued from it and resulted in a median net cost of 15%. “Parks and Open Space: The Highest and Best Use of Public Land?”.


The value of the long-term benefits of trees is more than twice the value of their costs. “Chicago’s Urban Forest Ecosystem: Results of the Chicago Urban Forest Climate Project USDA Forest Service General Technical Report NE-186” June 1994.

Chicago’s urban forest, as of 2007, is estimated to have around 3,585,000 trees and has been reported to remove 888 tons/year of pollution saving the city $6.4 million/year. “Assessing Urban Forest Effects and Values, Chicago’s Urban Forest” September 2009.

Proposed solutions to minimizing carbon footprints are increasing forest acreage and crop yields, doubling protected areas, and managing urbanization to minimize the impact on resources and making changes in diets. “The Human as Bigfoot” October 2010.

Evidence for the positive relationship between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the lack of environmental amenities have been demonstrated by the tree loss associated with infestations of the Emerald Ash Borer with increases in CVD mortality. “Economic Values of Metro Nature Health Benefits: A Life Course Approach” 2015.

Trees in US cities reduce energy costs by nearly $7.8 billion each year. “How the Tree Outside Your Window Helps Save You Money” January 2017.

The United States has lost 58% of its natural habitat and over 50% of wetlands, threatening biodiversity. “Biodiversity”.

A 50ft x 50ft area of grass is able to produce enough oxygen to sustain a family of four. “Environmental Benefits of Lawns”.

Of the 11 most endangered grassland and shrub land birds in the nation, seven spend either their winter or summer months in Illinois. “Illinois State Land Conservation Funding”.

Urban storm water runoff is ranked as the second most common source of water pollution in lakes and estuaries, the third most common source for rivers nationwide and is one of the major sources of impairment to Illinois’ lakes and streams. “Infrastructure and Planning”. 

Natural noise buffers, like trees and shrubs, can reduce noise by 5-10 decibels per 30-meter width of woodland, which reduces the noise that reaches a human ear by up to 50%. “Noise Abatement”.

1 acre of trees absorbs the carbon dioxide produced by driving a car 11,000 miles. “NRPA - The Power of Parks”.

Southeastern Pennsylvania realized savings of nearly $61 million per year in water filtration and water supply replenishment and $37 million per year in natural flood mitigation services through the use of open space for water quality and flood control. “Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania”.

Southeastern Pennsylvania saves an estimated $17 million per year by maintaining trees within protected open space areas which remove air pollution and provide carbon sequestration. “Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania”.

The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to the cooling effect of ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day (USDA). “The Effects of Urban Trees on Air Quality”.

Illinois currently ranks 48th in the United States in public open space per citizen, ranks last in the Midwest in natural area protection, and less than 4% of its total acreage is open to the public for outdoor recreation use. “The Issue”.

A single acre of paved parking generates the same amount of total runoff as: 36 acres of forest; 20 acres of grassland; a 14 acre subdivision with 2 acre lots- one inch of rainfall on an acre of parking produces 27,000 gallons of storm water. “The Role of Trees and Forests in Healthy Watersheds”.

Large canopy trees have a predicted impact up to eight times greater than impermeable surfaces for flooding and water runoff in urban settings. “The Role of Trees and Forests in Healthy Watersheds”.

The trees of the Chicago region reduce residential energy costs by about $44 million per year. “Urban Trees Can Save Tens of Thousands of Lives Globally by Reducing Air Pollution and Temperature”.

Health and Wellness:

A study published in The Lancet looked at the health records of more than 350,000 people who died between 2001 and 2005 and found living in a neighborhood with a park nearby reduced the likelihood of stroke or heart disease. “How a Dose of Nature Can Keep Us Healthy in Mind and Body” November 2008.

A study following some 1,500 Australians between the ages of 18 and 70 found those who regularly visited a park for at least 30 minutes a week had significantly lower rates of high-blood pressure or depression. “How a Dose of Nature Can Keep Us Healthy in Mind and Body” November 2008.

A Rutgers transportation expert says the United States could solve part of its obesity problem by making it easier for people to bike or walk where they need to go (see article). “Study Links Walking, Cycling, and Obesity” September 2010.

Walking in forested environments has been found to significantly increase the level of blood adiponectin which protects against several metabolic disorders, including obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. “Acute Effects of Walking in Forest Environments on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Parameters” November 2011.

Residential areas which support physical activity, by having things like ample park space, were associated with a lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes. “Funding Public Parks Could Save Lives” December 2011.

In the UK, health inequalities related to mortalities were lower in populations living in the greenest areas and mortality rates for males living near areas that included more than 25% green cover had a 5% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. “Residential Green Spaces and Mortality: A Systematic Review” January 2016.

Trees help cities economically (see article). “Structure, Function, and Value of Street Trees in California, USA” June 2016.

People who spend more time outdoors are both happier and healthier. “The Secret to High Self-Esteem? Getting More Fresh Air” August 2016.

Physical activity has health benefits for persons of all ages (see article). “Physical Inactivity Among Adults Aged 50 Years and Older - United States, 2014” September 2016.

3 in 10 adults age 50+ are physically inactive. “Physical Inactivity Among Adults Aged 50 Years and Older - United States, 2014” September 2016.

70% of today's mothers in the US recalled playing outdoors every day as children but only 26% of them say their kids play outside daily. “We Are Wired to Be Outside” February 2017.

Nearly 10% of people with high blood pressure could get their levels under control if they spent at least 30 minutes in a park each week, partly because of the heart related benefits of getting fresh air and lowering stress. “Studies Show Extra Benefits of Outdoor Exercise” March 2017.

Older people who were active outdoors did at least 20 minutes more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week than those who only did it inside. “Studies Show Extra Benefits of Outdoor Exercise” March 2017.

People who took a long walk through a forest for two days in a row increased their natural killer cells by 50% and the activity of these cells by 56%. “Studies Show Extra Benefits of Outdoor Exercise” March 2017.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that closeness to natural vegetation, parks, street trees, and other "greenness" lowered the mortality rate nearby. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health used data from the Nurses' Health Study cohort, which has biannually collected health data from over 100,000 nurses across the U.S. since 1976. “Congress Could Give Important Bipartisan Boost to City Parks” July 2017.

Increased access to places for physical activity leads to a 25% increase in people exercising 3 or more days a week. “NPRA – The Power of Parks”.

Forest walks have been shown to have a positive effect on regulating blood glucose levels which contribute to reduced obesity, results in better sleep, promotes relaxation and reduces long-term traumatic stress due to violence. “Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy”.

Noise pollution has been associated with numerous health issues, such as shortened attention span, lowered observational abilities, high blood pressure, impairment of sleep and relaxation and overexcitement of the nervous system, along with other issues. “Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague” March 2007.

Mental Health:

Experimental studies have shown a positive relationship between green space and restoration from stress and mental fatigue, with positive effects on mood, concentration, self-discipline and physiological stress. “Morbidity is Related to a Green Living Environment” 2008.

In the Netherlands, the prevalence of depression was 32 per 1000 people in areas with only 10% green space in a 1 km radius, whereas depression rates were reduced to 24 per 1000 people in areas that had 90% green space in a 1 km radius. “Morbidity is Related to a Green Living Environment” 2008.

People in greener settings tend to become more generous, with more mutual trust and willingness to help others. “Parks, Green Space Essential for Health” April 2011.

Simple and brief interactions with nature can produce marked increases of cognitive control. “How Urban Parks Enhance Your Brain” July 2012.

A new study suggests that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a park. “Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk In the Park” March 2013. 

Green space in towns and cities could lead to significant and sustained improvements in mental health. “Green Spaces Deliver Lasting Mental Health Benefits” January 2014.

Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. “Brains Could Benefit from Walking in Green Areas, Study Finds” May 2015.

A growing body of literature strongly supports the benefits of open space in mitigating symptoms of anxiety disorders, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “How Might Contact with Nature Promote Human Health? Promising Mechanisms and a Possible Central Pathway” August 2015.

When we get closer to nature - be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree - we do our overstressed brains a favor (see article). “This Is Your Brain on Nature” January 2016.

Metropolitan populations have significantly more anxiety and mood disorders than rural populations. The annual prevalence of anxiety disorders is 26 per 1000 people in areas with 10% green space in a 1 km radius and only 18 per 1000 people in areas with 90% green space in a 1 km radius. “Relationships Between Urban Open Spaces and Humans’ Health Benefits from an Ecological Perspective: A Study in an Urban Campus” April 2016.

Research suggests time in nature reduces stress (see article). “Stressed? Science Says Take A Walk In the Woods” September 2016.

People who exercised outside reported feeling more revitalized, engaged and energized than those who did it indoors. Additionally, people who exercised outside felt less tension, anger, and depression. “Studies Show Extra Benefits of Outdoor Exercise” March 2017.

People who walked for 90 minutes outside were less likely to ruminate on their problems and had less activity in the brain linked to depression, compared to people who took similar walks but in urban areas. “Studies Show Extra Benefits of Outdoor Exercise” March 2017.

Students who spend more time learning outdoors may show greater attentiveness and improved memory. “Schools Harness Benefits of Outdoor Learning” February 2017.

Kids benefit from exposure to wildlife and natural environments, something which is becoming harder due to increases in technology and decreases in natural land. “How Kids Learn in Nature” May 2017.

Property Values:

9 out of 10 Illinoisans agree that park districts and open spaces help improve local property values in their communities. "Statewide Citizen Satisfaction Survey of Illinois Residents" November 2013  

Parks add 1.5% in property value to homes within 2 blocks. Chicago Park District’s Economic Impact”.

43% of all residential properties in Chicago have a higher value due to parks. Chicago Park District’s Economic Impact”.

Small parks make up 37% of the total property value impact. Chicago Park District’s Economic Impact”.

Natural area parks have been found to have the largest effect on house prices in Portland, Oregon, and in general, the bigger the area, the greater the increase in house prices. “The Effect of Open Spaces on a Home's Sale Price” July 2001.

Converting one acre of developable pastureland in the Washington D.C./Baltimore area to privately owned conservation land increased the value of residential neighborhood property by 1.87%. “The Effects of Open Space on Residential Property Values” November 2002.

In the metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota, in neighborhoods that were twice as dense as average, the value relative to proximity to neighborhood parks was nearly three times higher than average and in neighborhoods twice as wealthy as average, the amenity value of neighborhood parks is more than four times higher than average. “Open Space, Residential Property Values, and Spatial Context” November 2006.
The construction of parks along with the removal of undesirable park elements attracts better tenants and increases property value (see article). “The Payoff From Parks” August 2012.
The greatest increase in property values are realized for houses within 500 feet of open space. Within urban areas, parkland adds a value of 20% for property abutting a passive park, 10% for properties within 300 feet, and 5% for properties between 300 and 500 feet of a park. “Measuring the Total Value of a Park System to a Community” 2014.

In Portland, OR, homes within 1500 feet of large natural forest realized an increase in value of $10,648 compared to a $1,214 increase for homes within 1500 feet of urban parks or $5657 for specialty parks, like playgrounds and skate parks. “Measuring the Total Value of a Park System to a Community” 2014.

Parks have a direct, positive impact on real estate prices (see article). “Housing Prices on the Rise Around the 606” October 2016.

$900 million in property value is the total value added to residential properties located within 2 blocks of a park. Chicago Park District's Economic Impact”. 

Public Support and Demand for Services:

The vast majority of Illinoisans believe that park districts are good stewards of their tax dollars. "Statewide Citizen Satisfaction Survey of Illinois Residents" November 2013  

7 in 10 believe the portion of their property taxes going to their park district represents an excellent or good value given the level of service provided in return. "Statewide Citizen Satisfaction Survey of Illinois Residents" November 2013  

In comparison to other taxing bodies, park districts and forest preserves receive the highest esteem ratings. "Statewide Citizen Satisfaction Survey of Illinois Residents" November 2013  

Most Illinoisans would support paying more in property taxes to improve existing park district facilities, acquire more open land for trails and protect natural areas and wildlife habitats. "Statewide Citizen Satisfaction Survey of Illinois Residents" November 2013  

4 out of 5 Illinois households report using a local park district park, program or facility in the past year. "Statewide Citizen Satisfaction Survey of Illinois Residents" November 2013  

Favorable opinion of park districts and forest preserves held steady during the last 10 years, while public opinion of other units of government has declined. "Statewide Citizen Satisfaction Survey of Illinois Residents" November 2013  

Throughout the state, 45 million people visit 324 parks, fish, and wildlife areas, forests, trails and recreational sites, bringing in nearly $1 billion in revenue. The state parks support close to 8,500 jobs. “Illinois Tourism Industry Means Big Business” June 2011.

A 2013 Illinois statewide survey showed that 60% of residents supported paying more in property taxes to acquire more open space trails and 57% for restoring and protecting natural areas and habitats. “The Issue”.

An overwhelming majority of Americans assert that they personally benefit from local parks and that their community benefits from local parks. “American's Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services” 2015.

Parks are a great value: 4 in 5 Americans concur that local parks are well worth the tax dollars spent on them. “American's Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services” 2015.

Despite the tight fiscal environment, Americans agree that local, state and national leaders need to dedicate financial resources to support, sustain and expand local park and recreation agencies. “American's Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services” 2015.

Younger adults tend to seek more active and interactive recreation when compared to older adults. “Creating a 21st Century Park System For Brown County” July 2016.

90% of Americans agree that parks and recreation are important local government services. “NPRA American's Engagement with Parks Survey” November 2016.

75% of Americans support increased local government spending for park and recreation agencies. “NPRA American's Engagement with Parks Survey” November 2016.

70% of Americans say they are more likely to vote for local politicians who make park and recreation funding a priority. “NPRA American's Engagement with Parks Survey” November 2016.

Playgrounds have clear benefits, but there aren't enough of them. “The World Has A Playground Deficit” November 2016.

In Illinois, between 2000 and 2006, voters approved 29 of 46 (63%) conservation measures allocating more than $593 million in conservation funds.   Between 2007 and 2016, Illinois voters approved 62% of the 13 conservation ballot initiatives valued at $442.5 million. “Land Vote” 2017.

The National Park Service estimates it will have had 325 million visitors in 2016, breaking the previous year's attendance record. The 100th anniversary marketing campaign and "Find Your Park" campaign are the among the reasons attendance went up. “National Park Attendance Continues to Increase” January 2017.

Urban parks are essential infrastructure and must be included in the Trump administration's infrastructure rehabilitation plan (see article). “Why Urban Parks Are Essential Infrastructure” January 2017.

8 in 10 Illinois voters support a $350 million capital investment in land and water conservation. “Key Findings from Recent Illinois Voter Survey”.

Reduction of Crime:

Within Chicago public housing, buildings with greener surroundings had fewer reported property and violent crimes. “Economic Values of Metro Nature Health Benefits: A Life Course Approach” 2015.

In Macon, GA a revitalized park that included new programming and beautification efforts reduced incidents of crime and violence by 50%. “NRPA - The Power of Parks”.

In Baltimore County, a 10% increase in tree cover was associated with an 11.8% reduction in robbery, burglary, theft, and shootings. “Economic Values of Metro Nature Health Benefits: A Life Course Approach” 2015.


In Illinois, the health care savings associated with an active outdoor recreation lifestyle are estimated to be $8,004 per person annually in avoided medical costs associated with diabetes. “The Value of the Nonprofit Environment Field in Illinois: A Social Return on Investment Analysis” March 2015.

A Pennsylvania study identified a household savings of $392 per year by having open space available for recreation and exercise compared to indoor facilities. “Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Southeastern Pennsylvania” January 2011.

A recent study in England of "green exercises" - those done outside, including dog walking, running, horseback riding and mountain biking - estimated that the health benefits of doing physical activity in nature can save around $2.7 billion a year [for the community]. “Studies Show Extra Benefits of Outdoor Exercise” March 2017.


Economic valuation of ecosystem services tool (see link). “Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services” June 2016.

The Tree Benefit Calculator allows anyone to make a simple estimation of the benefits individual street-side trees provide (see link). “National Tree Benefit Calculator”.