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GLIN==> IISG News: Chicago Nature Centers are Rich in Public Benefit
- Subject: GLIN==> IISG News: Chicago Nature Centers are Rich in Public Benefit
- From: Irene Miles <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 11:08:24 -0500
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- Delivered-to: email@example.com
- List-name: GLIN-Announce
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2006
Source: Daniel McGrath (312) 996-5723; firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicago Nature Centers are Rich in Public Benefit
URBANA - In the economic battle for land in urban and suburban
environments, all too often, natural areas are sacrificed for the sake of
development. But nature preserves provide benefits for more than just
flora and fauna. According to an Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant study, these
green places provide public benefits that can be measured in terms of
dollars and cents.
Daniel McGrath, an economist at the Institute for Environmental Science
and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, calculated the worth
of two nature centers in Cook County to those who use them. He found that
these sites are highly valued public resources--to the tune of more than
$8 million per year.
"That figure represents the total amount that residents of
metropolitan Chicago are willing to pay in time and travel costs to visit
these two sites over the course of a season," said McGrath.
Calculating the value of one's time is related to specific measures, such
McGrath surveyed over 350 one-day visitors at the Chicago Park District?s
North Park Village Nature Center on the City?s northwest side and the
Forest Preserve District of Cook County?s Sand Ridge Nature Center in
South Holland, just south of the city limits. Annually, the North
Park site receives about 15,000 adult visitors and Sand Ridge about
"We calculate that these visitors are willing to pay with their time
and money, on average, about $1,200 over the course of a season,"
said McGrath. "People who come to the North Park site really love it
and make it part of their lives. They typically visit about six times a
season to bird watch or hike."
According to McGrath, the results in this study actually reflect
conservative estimates of the economic values of the nature centers. He
found visitors at these sites who traveled from Wisconsin, Nebraska,
Iowa, and other parts of the world, but they were not included in his
results. "You can't accurately assess travel costs when a trip
involves more than one destination," he explained. Nor did he
calculate the educational benefits that nature centers provide through
school-children visits, which can be significant.
So what does this study mean for the new Ford Calumet Environmental
Center planned for the Hegewisch Marsh on the southeast side of Chicago,
which will likely cost $7.5 million in donated funds to develop?
"There are a number of factors to consider, including the site's
location and size," said McGrath, "But the research results
suggest that, from a cost-benefit point of view, the welfare gains of
this environmental center will support a significant share, if not all of
the cost to build and maintain it."
Earlier this month, the results of McGrath's study were presented to the
Calumet Governmental Working Group hosted by the City of Chicago.
The Calumet region was at one time one of the largest wetland complexes
in the country. Later, the region became a center of industry, producing
steel, railroad cars and more. Now that much of the industry has moved
on, city and state governments are focused on reviving both the economy
and ecology of the region. According to the City of Chicago, the Ford
Calumet Environmental Center is slated to open in late 2008.
The economic value of nature centers in urban environments can go well
beyond visitor benefits. McGrath is now assessing the impact that the
North Park Village Nature Center has had on residential values in that
neighborhood, which may provide further insight potential benefits of the
new Ford Calumet Environmental Center.
The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of more than 30
National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea
Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to
address coastal and Great Lakes needs. Funding is provided by the
National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U. S. Department of
Commerce, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue
University at West Lafayette, Indiana.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
1101 W. Peabody Dr.
Urbana, Il 61801
FAX (217) 333-8046