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October 14, 2004

Contact: Erin Phalon
(609) 984-1795


Study Shows State Parks and Forests Provide $1.2 Billion Per Year in Economic Benefits

(04/121) Trenton -- The State of New Jersey's 39 parks and 11 forests provide economic benefits amounting to at least $1.2 billion per year, or $30 billion over a 25 year-period, according to a study released today by Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell.

"Our state parks and forests are part of the diverse landscape that makes New Jersey a great place to live, work and visit," said Governor James E. McGreevey. "This study confirms that our investments in open space preservation pay off. When we preserve open space, not only do we protect the environment and provide recreational opportunities for families, we help boost the state's economy - one of the strongest in the nation."

The study, entitled The Economic Value of New Jersey State Parks and Forests, highlights that New Jersey's parks and forests create almost 14,000 jobs, positively impact property values and provide enhanced public services including education.

"This study quantifies the importance of New Jersey's state parks and forests as an asset to our economy and underscores the necessity of maintaining our natural open space," said Commissioner Campbell. "We get the best return on our investment by nurturing our parklands and forest resources."

According to the study, New Jersey's parks and forests annually provide $812 million in benefits from recreation and tourism, including the indirect economic activity generated by recreation and tourism expenditures.

In addition, the park system annually provides benefits of $228 million from the operating and capital expenditures for the State Parks and Forests, including the indirect economic activity that those expenditures generate. Benefits worth at least $140 million are annually derived from the parks system's ecosystem services, such as watershed and groundwater protection, flood control, water purification, wildlife conservation, biodiversity preservation, and storage of carbon, the leading greenhouse gas.

Indirect economic activity derives from the "ripple" effect that spreads through the New Jersey economy as a result of consumer spending related to state parks and forests. For example, when park visitors spend money on items such as food, lodging and gasoline, the businesses that
provide those goods pay wages and taxes and make purchases from their suppliers. Their employees and suppliers in turn spend the money they receive, creating a ripple effect.

New Jersey taxpayers reap tremendous benefits compared to the level of investment made in most states. In 2002, New Jersey spent almost the same dollar amount as the other 50 states, on average, for the operation of its park system.

With almost 400,000 acres, the State Parks and Forests constitute about 8 percent of New Jersey's total land area, compared to the US average of 1 percent, and rank eighth in the nation and second in the Northeast in terms of acreage. An average of approximately 15 million people per year visit the state park system's sites and facilities, versus a 50-state average of 11 million visitors per year.

Park creation and improvement is critical to Governor McGreevey's open space preservation and smart growth initiatives. DEP is working through its Green Acres and Livable Community Grants programs to fulfill Governor McGreevey's goal to create or improve 200 community parks.

The DEP Livable Community Grants Program in Fiscal Years 2003 and 2004 funded 228 park projects, located in all of New Jersey's 21 counties. In 2002 and 2003, the Green Acres Program dedicated almost $38 million to fund 50 urban park development projects and 20 urban land acquisition projects throughout the state. In 2004, the Green Acres Program recommended the dedication of $50 million for park development efforts statewide.

DEP has also taken steps to improve the state parks system. Commissioner Campbell in 2003 established a task force to review the management and organization of the state parks system and implement changes to improve park operations and visitors' experiences at the parks. In addition, DEP has committed to add two new parks to the state park system and to complete capital improvement projects.

The DEP Division of Science, Research and Technology conducted the study.



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