BY JOHN THOMAIDES
As a proponent of parks, green space and bike/pedestrian facilities I was surprised and pleased to hear a leading economist praise them for their contribution to economic development.
This past week I attended the Texas Municipal League annual conference in Dallas. One of the sessions I attended was with Dr. Ray Perryman. Many people in our local Chambers of Commerce and our development and business community will recognize his name. For those who do not, Dr. Perryman is regarded as one of the worlds most influential and innovative economists. He is the founder of the Perryman Group of Waco, Texas. He has spoken several times in San Marcos, and at the university, about the world economy, oil markets, energy, and healthcare issues and about the Texas and the Central Texas economies.
In this session he talked about something I have never heard him speak about before. The study his firm completed was titled “Sunshine, Soccer, and Success”. The study was about the economic effects of municipal investments made in parks, green space, and bicycle & pedestrian infrastructure. The study can be found online at www.tprfoundation.org. Some his most notable conclusions were:
Seven percent of tourism in the State of Texas is attributed to municipal parks.
This is easy for residents of San Marcos to picture since we all see the Rio Vista Falls area packed every day in the summer. I’ve even found out of state drivers licenses floating in the lower pools and mailed them back to their owners. Many local moms and dads have been at our award winning soccer and softball fields and seen the out of town parents attending the games. The figures show that 46,000 Texans are employed because of parks and their direct tourism impact.
A presence of good parks and green space system raises property values, and not just those that are adjacent to the park.
Evidence was presented to document how property values increase when parks are nearby and how they decline when open space near neighborhoods is removed.
Healthcare costs are reduced and lower in communities with good outdoor resources and places to exercise.
Dr. Perryman is an expert in the healthcare economy and points out that there is no way we can pay for the current healthcare system if trends continue. The only way is to change the current trends through a healthier lifestyle.
Economic development opportunities are directly linked to community parks and facilities.
Attracting smart people is the way to grow our local economy. The companies follow talented workers. These people like a nice attractive place to live and many can work anywhere in the world they wish. It is critically important how we present our community to them. Major knowledge based companies that are creating new products and services for industry and the public, will not locate where their workers don’t want to live and knowledge based workers love parks and green space. These people are generally healthier and exercise more. Having good recreational facilities is critically important to attracting these companies and their workers.
It’s nice to hear from respected and qualified experts that your community is on the right track, and that one of your council priorities is forward thinking. We need to remember in the future when we make decisions about our investment in public parks, that what may seem to be “wants”, are in reality “needs”, when it comes to growing our economy as well as making our citizens healthier. If we can also get our citizens better and higher paying knowledge-based jobs in the process, then we are making a major positive impact on their quality of life in San Marcos.
John Thomaides is in his second term as a San Marcos City Council member.