June 28, 2010 - For decades, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve—natural areas the Open Space Institute has been instrumental in protecting—have preserved the most important natural landscapes of New York State’s Shawangunk region and provided hundreds of thousands of people outstanding educational, research and recreational opportunities.
A new study now confirms that these three publicly accessible parks and preserves also serve as important economic engines—creating jobs, driving tourism spending and ultimately contributing $12.3 million to the local economy.
The Study of the Economic Impact on the Local Economy of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve, conducted by Business Opportunities Management Consulting of Rensselaer, N.Y., used Money Generation Models (MGM) developed for the National Park Service to determine the economic impacts that Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point have on the region, driven by visitor spending, employee spending, operations and capital expenses.
The study was released last week. Its key findings include:
- Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point host a combined 392,659 visitors who spend over $13 million annually;
- Annual local sales taxes generated by Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point total $459,000;
- Over 350 local jobs are supported by the three park/preserves;
- The total economic impact of Minnewaska, Mohonk Preserve and Sam’s Point is $12,307,593.
“We are in the business of protecting the land and providing a place for people to enjoy nature,” said Glenn Hoagland, executive director of the Mohonk Preserve. “But we’re also part of the green economy, contributing to the fiscal health of the community while doing what we do best.”
OSI created the Sam’s Point Preserve in 1997 when its land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, purchased 4,780 acres from the village of Ellenville. Through subsequent acquisitions, the preserve, which is managed by The Nature Conservancy, has grown to approximately 5,700 acres.
OSI has also added nearly 10,000 acres, some of which is included in the Sam’s Point Preserve, to the Minnewaska Preserve and has protected more than 850 acres around the Mohonk Preserve over the last two decades.
“OSI has operated for years on the principles that this study confirms,” said Joe Martens, OSI’s president. “Tourist dollars and newly created jobs bolster local economies while recreation and scenic viewsheds reconnect people with the natural world. Conservation and economic development are not mutually exclusive, but in fact complement each other.”
The Shawangunk Ridge is a geologically unique branch of the Appalachian Mountains, regionally famous as a destination for world-class rock climbing and other outdoor recreational activities. In Ulster County, over 30,000 acres of the Gunks are protected, primarily as part of Minnewaska, Mohonk and the Sam’s Point Preserve.
“This study highlights that protecting the environment and supporting the economy are not at odds, and that our preserves are an important part of the economic fabric of our region,” said Cara Lee, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Shawangunk Ridge program.
Other recent reports have also reinforced the bottom-line value of parks and open space preservation. In March of this year, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli issued Economic Benefits of Open Space Preservation, which noted that “rather than conflicting with other goals, open space preservation can provide significant economic benefits.” The report also examines the benefits of open space preservation on regional economic growth through promoting industry, such as agriculture, forestry and tourism, contributing to increased land and property values, maintaining aesthetic values and offering outdoor recreational opportunities.
A March 2009 study, The NYS Park System: An Economic Asset to the Empire State, commissioned by Parks & Trails New York, found that, overall, state parks produce about $1.9 billion in annual sales for private businesses in the areas around the parks, with about 40 percent of those sales coming from tourists who might not otherwise visit the areas. The study also found that the benefit-to-cost ratio of maintaining New York State Parks is more than 5-to-1—more than $5 of benefits for every $1 in costs.
While the challenges of the current economic climate have threatened many open spaces, the economic impact study demonstrates that these three park and preserves are environmentally and economically significant, sustain jobs and support the region’s tourism economy, while also protecting and preserving the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Shawangunk Ridge.