Protected open spaces provide substantial economic, environmental, and health benefits to surrounding communities, but these benefits are often overlooked or undervalued in policy debates and investment decisions. A better understanding of these benefits can demonstrate how protected open space contributes to economic development and fiscal stability and can reverse the common misconception that conserved undeveloped land is non-productive and non-revenue producing.
Chester County partnered with the major land conservancies active in Chester County, as well as the Chester County Economic Development Council and Chester County Association of Township Officials to produce the Return on Environment report that estimates the economic impact of the county’s robust open-space preservation initiative. This report is an update of a similar study completed in 2011 by the Green Space Alliance and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission that estimated the economic value of protected open space for all of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Chester County’s open space preservation program began in the 1980s amidst a growing public concern that the county’s vistas and landscapes were disappearing in a tide of suburban sprawl. Chester County voters overwhelmingly passed a $50 million bond referendum in 1989 for open space preservation, and funding has continued ever since. As of the end of 2018, over 28% of Chester County’s land is preserved- a testament to the coordinated effort by county leadership, municipalities, nonprofit partners, and supportive citizens.