There are many things to love about parks: green grass, open spaces for fitness, playgrounds, wildlife, community events and much more. Less obvious, but just as deserving of our admiration, is the positive economic impact parks can have on the areas in which they’re located. For proof of this, look no further than Eau Claire, Wisconsin, home to one of the 2014 National Gold Medal Award finalists for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management.
“The city council wanted to be sure that parks and recreation are a good investment in this economy,” says Phil Fieber, director of Eau Claire’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. To that end, and in partnership with the town’s tourism promotion authority Visit Eau Claire, more than 800 people at 26 city-sponsored events and locations were surveyed between November 2013 and August 2014 in order to calculate visitor spending in the area. Participants in the survey were asked about how far they had traveled, if they were staying in a motel, how much they spent on food and transportation, etc. The results of this survey surprised many — an estimated $3.67 million dollars in revenue had been generated during the 10 months, breaking down to approximately $141,000 per event.
“The survey had a big impact on some city council members who were just looking at expenses and wanted to see a good return on their investment. With these results, we’re hoping to see infrastructure improved over the next few years,” Fieber said of the lasting effect the survey will have. “It’s a great tool to show the widespread positive impact of parks and recreation, from improving quality of life to an area’s economic well-being.”
Marissa Bracamonte is the Editorial Intern for Parks & Recreation magazine.