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Parks Bring Substantial Cash to Cities, Along With the Tons of Community Benefits

Updated: Jun 28, 2022


Sweeping view of Point Molate. Photo credit: Pam Stello
Parks bring serious financial benefits to communities where parks are located, according to Dave Mason of the East Bay Regional Park District. He is not just talking off the cuff; he cites facts and figures from recent economic studies of the fiscal impacts of parks on communities. He points to the recent study done on the East Bay Regional Park District showing that for the surrounding communities the Regional Parks generate far reaching economic benefits.

Click here to see the full study.

Economic Analysis shows Parks generate money for surrounding Communities:

An economic analysis performed in 2017 by the research company Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., found some surprising facts about the fiscal impact of the regional parks:

  • The East Bay Regional Park District hosts 25 million visits a year. This is more than the A’s, Raiders, Warriors, Giants, 49ers, Earthquakes, and Sharks combined.

  • The parks provide a range of benefits to residents, businesses, and visitors that total about $500 million annually. This includes the values of recreation, healthcare, property values, and ecosystem services.

  • The parks generate nearly $200 million in regional economic activity every year that would not happen otherwise. This includes visitor spending and grant-funded capital investments, and the multiplier effects of both.

Mason asks: “What does that translate into?”Answering his own question, he indicates that this scientific report shows conclusively that the Park District is interconnected with many aspects of life in the East Bay including infrastructure, jobs, transportation, public health, and housing.

A Regional Park would be beneficial to Richmond.

Those who advocate transforming Point Molate into a regional park see such a park providing tangible benefits, not only for Richmond, but for the region and the climate. Plus, the City of Richmond will benefit financially.

These park advocates state that Point Molate currently belongs to the people of Richmond, and the people of Richmond (and the region) deserve to reap the benefits. By any measure, Richmond residents would benefit from public recreation and education programs and use of natural open space and parkland at Point Molate, in contrast to allowing a luxury housing enclave to privatize the area.

According to former Planning Commissioner Jeff Kilbreth, an MBA with expertise in finance and who has done a thorough examination of the finances of the development that is currently proposed for Point Molate: “The proposed development is inappropriate for Point Molate and would likely, by every honest way of examining it, cost the City of Richmond so much money that all Richmond residents will experience reductions in services.”

Benefits of keeping Point Molate public:

  1. Promoting financial stability for the City of Richmond. The plan presented by the developer is based on assumptions that have been shown to be inadequate and inaccurate. If the luxury development is built, the City of Richmond will lose millions each year and will need to look at city-wide reductions in services. The taxes paid by Richmond residents (with median household incomes around $70,000) will go up and Richmond residents will have to cover the enormous shortfall for the foreseeable future, amounting to many millions of dollars yearly.

  2. Supporting Richmond youth with playing fields and recreational opportunities. Playing fields (for soccer and other field sports) and hiking trails with water recreation would contribute enormously to the youth of Richmond and future generations, and would provide value to the Richmond community and to families. Playing fields generate substantial cash income above and beyond the cost of maintenance.

  3. Adding an important link to the benefits of public parks. Such a park would commemorate and celebrate Richmond’s diverse histories and cultures, including the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center, the Miller-Knox Regional Park, Point Molate, and the Bay Trail that connects them. Under-parked communities need places where the public can build equity while they appreciate the stunning beauty of the natural world and enjoy extended parkland. And according to an analysis by the East Bay Regional Park District, the presence of such a park system would have substantial economic benefits: “Every dollar yields a return of $4.”

  4. Providing jobs. Point Molate will serve the public with temporary construction jobs such as building the visitor/ranger station and restoring Winehaven and also with permanent jobs in recreation, education, and science, especially in the job skills for green technologies.

Above and beyond the above economic benefits for Richmond, the following important factors apply:

  1. Celebrating culture and history. The Ohlone people were the first people to occupy Point Molate, and their presence would be highlighted and celebrated in a park. Ohlone shell mounds still exist on the site. These areas contain the bones of Ohlone ancestors and are sacred to the tribal members who live among us today. Development plans call for bulldozing the land, instead of noninvasive ground-penetrating methods to find and preserve these sites. Also celebrated would be the subsequent use of Point Molate by Chinese shrimp fishers, the early California wine industry, and the Navy during World War II.

  2. Improving health in Richmond. According to the Contra Costa Health Department, currently Richmond children have twice the asthma rates of children who live elsewhere in Contra Costa County. This rate is second only to some areas of Los Angeles. The planned Point Molate development would increase traffic congestion and pollution to such a degree that passage of a special measure was required to document the importance of the luxury development. Speakers warned about the health effects on Richmond residents. But the previous City Council members (Butt, Bates, Choi, Johnson and Recinos) ignored health evidence and voted to approve a special measure to allow the additional pollution, which will be blown over central Richmond residents if the development is built.

  3. Understanding science and climate change and stewardship. Point Molate supports the Bay Area’s largest intact expanse of non-serpentine native coastal prairie, and the California Native Plant Society identifies Point Molate as one of 15 priority plant protection areas in the East Bay. The eelgrass beds of Point Molate serve as nurseries for the crabbing and fishing industries, and erosion and silt from bulldozing will block light and destroy them. Creating more damage, the proposed development will replace the beach with large stone revetments, which will prevent the eelgrass from marching upslope in response to sea level rise.

These are only a few of the many reasons that the proposed development is destructive and inappropriate for Point Molate. Housing advocates argue that although housing is desperately needed, it should be located near transit and infrastructure, and should house residents at a range of income levels. Richmond needs to reject this destructive development and to plan for housing that enhances opportunities for Richmond as well as stewardship of the earth.

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