NEW JERSEY ECOTOURISM REGISTERS GREEN
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