Open space benefits have a tremendous impact for Marin residents beyond simply scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. Some of those benefits include:
Quality of Life
Parks, open space, and trails contribute to the high quality of life in Marin County and the greater San Francisco Bay Area. While difficult to quantify, this high quality of life attracts new and retains existing businesses, sustains local and regional economic growth, and generates jobs and income. An estimated 3.5 million visitors enjoy the County’s parks, open space, and trails system annually.
Parks, open space, and trails, by increasing the quality of life, enhance property values in Marin and throughout the region. Homes adjacent and close to these community assets benefit even more because of the views and easy access to recreational opportunities.
User utility is defined as the value park users place on the experience. The total user utility received by Marin’s park users is currently estimated at about $22 million annually, based on economic analyses of user utility elsewhere. These values are generally provided to a diverse set of park users at no cost or well below the actual cost of provision.
Preservation of open space lands and natural resources ensures that the region enjoys multiple ecosystems. Without ecological life support systems, including clean air, fresh water, fertile soil, and an amenable climate, communities and their economies would suffer. Urbanization, over time, gradually reduces vital “ecosystem services” due to the loss of natural lands that provide these services. These services have an economic value. Without them, public costs may be incurred through the need for additional wastewater treatment plants, private costs may be incurred through the need for water filtration systems or property damage because of landslides, and the overall quality of life of a region may suffer because of worsening air quality, which, in turn, may reduce economic growth.
Decisions concerning land development and depletion of natural resources that do not take account of these factors may damage the regional economy and reduce prosperity, despite the addition of building space and expected increases in property taxes, sales tax, and other public revenues. MCOSD and Marin’s cities and towns are custodians of lands that provide ecosystem services. Good land stewardship, exemplified by activities such as visitor management, fire hazard reduction, and restoring native habitat, keeps these lands healthy and enhances their value to our community.
Community Form and Connections Parks and open space are integral to Marin County’s landscape, spatially defining its communities, and contributing to local identity, individuality, and a sense of place. The system of unpaved trails throughout Marin connects communities with other communities and with other parks and open space lands. Multi-purpose paved paths facilitate bicycle commuting and pedestrian access between communities. However private properties create multiple gaps in Marin’s network of trails.
Health, Education, and Public Safety
MCOSD’s lands, programs, and services provide a variety of benefits that accrue to other public sector service providers, to individual park users, and to the broader community. These include health benefits through recreational opportunities, educational benefits through environmental education, and public safety benefits through wild land
fire fuel reduction activities.