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July 11, 2017 > East Bay regional parks are an economic boon

East Bay regional parks are an economic boon

By Dennis Waespi

Residents of the East Bay and beyond are familiar with the regional parks as a venue for nature education, wildlife preservation, and lots of close-to-home outdoor recreation opportunities.

Perhaps less obvious, but equally beneficial, is the East Bay Regional Park DistrictÕs contribution to the local economy.

A study completed in 2016 by Economic & Planning Systems, a group of prominent Oakland economists, confirmed that the Park District provides a range of benefits totaling about $500 million annually.

The group calculated that the District generates a health care value of $20 million, enhances property values by $65 million, and provides ecosystem services valued at $215 million. With 25 million visits annually, Economic & Planning Systems set the DistrictÕs recreation value at $200 million. One example: the District provides more than a thousand full-time and part-time jobs in the two counties it serves. And in 2016 the District hired and trained 402 youth in a variety of seasonal parkland jobs. Another: the parklands remove carbon dioxide from the air equivalent to the emissions of 60,000 vehicles.

The economic news is one feature of ÔCommunity Report 2016-2017: Transitions and Progress,Õ a brochure that has been circulated throughout the two-county District. Other highlights of the report:
¥ In 2016 the District added 1,040 acres for a new grand total of 120,931 acres of parkland throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Several important regional trail connections also were completed.
¥ More than 500 park improvement projects are in progress. One of them is at Redwood Canyon Golf Course near Castro Valley, where a new course operator, Touchstone Golf, has been selected, and major repairs have been made to the clubhouse, restaurant, water system and greens.
¥ The District installed a 1.2-megawatt solar panel-carport system at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area in Pleasanton to offset electricity use throughout the District, along with three electric car-charging stations, a new recycled water line, and native tree plantings.
¥ The District permanently closed the Chabot Gun Club at Anthony Chabot Regional Park in Castro Valley, in compliance with stricter environmental regulations and to mitigate lead contamination.
¥ More than 21,000 volunteers provided some 150,000 hours of service through projects including tree plantings, shoreline cleanup, and trail maintenance.
¥ Park District police and firefighters responded to 6,300 incidents in the regional parks. Park Police patrol the DistrictÕs 65 parks by vehicle, horseback, bicycles, motorcycle and helicopter. The 200-member Volunteer Trail Safety Patrol assists park visitors and serves as additional eyes and ears for public safety.

The Park DistrictÕs 2017 budget is balanced. Appropriations from all funds total $193.8 million, including a $124.5 million general fund operating budget. You can see the budget documents by visiting ebparks.org/about/budget.

With all these projects under way, and with the public support that the District has been privileged to enjoy for more than 80 years since its establishment in 1934, the District looks to the future with optimism. So, by all means, come out and visit the regional parks. Take advantage of this great resource that you have helped to build and improve over the years. WeÕll look forward to seeing you in the parks and on the trails this summer.

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