Parks contribute significantly to East Bay economy, study finds


Visitorship to the East Bay Regional Park District has increased 78% since 2000.

Trevor Cheitlin, Copy editor

The East Bay Regional Park District provides a major boon to the East Bay economy, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Economic & Planning Systems, Inc.

The EPS, Inc. concluded that the District provides $500 million in benefits to East Bay residents and businesses every year, along with an annual economic impact of almost $200 million.

This is the first economic study conducted for the park district since 2000.

“Over the past 16 years, much [in the district] has changed,” wrote District General Manager Robert E. Doyle in a letter accompanying the study. “We felt it time to commission a new study to understand the district’s economic benefits today.”

The concepts of economic value and impact can be difficult to grasp, but represent distinct economic concepts.

Simply put, value refers to the district’s worth as a service to the East Bay community. Impact signifies its contribution to the district economy.

A large chunk of the district’s total economic value comes from “recreation value,” which reflects a “willingness to pay” on part of the district’s 25.5 million annual visitors, or how much value each visitor places on a single visit to the parks.

Based on activity pricing and estimation, the study values each visit at approximately $8.

Other contributing factors to that $500 million economic valuation come in the form of property value premiums for land bordering the parks and healthcare cost savings from the promotion of exercise and healthy living, along with environmental benefits such as enhanced air and water quality.

Economic impact, on the other hand, refers more specifically to the district’s role in generating regional economic activity. Over half of the $200 million economic impact of the district stems from money spent in the local economy by outside visitors who come to the East Bay to visit the parks. Another $9 million is attributable to district spending of federal and state grants.

Both visitor and grant spending have ripple effects that generate new jobs throughout the Bay Area in industries such as retail, transportation, construction and food and beverage services, according to the study.

The study also concludes that, since 2000, the district’s visitation and economic significance has far outpaced population growth in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. This points to an ever increasing role for the district in the makeup of the East Bay.

The district’s 25.5 million annual visitation is more than the attendance of the A’s, Giants, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders, Sharks and Earthquakes combined, and that number, along with the Park district, continues to grow.

“The district is not only a major driver of economic vitality in the East Bay,” the report states. “It enhances, in no small way, the quality of life for all East Bay residents and those doing business throughout the region.”