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BOOKS – How much are parks worth? More, in fact, than built capital

(Image: TRU)

What value can you place on local parks?

This is a question TRU economics Professor Peter Tsigaris, along with his class of graduate students, ventured to find out over the course of a semester.

Tsigaris was inspired by the work of Paul Sutton, a University of Denver professor and author of the book’s forward who assessed the value of New York city’s iconic Central Park through the recreational, regulatory and supporting ecosystem services it provides.

Tsigaris wanted to localize these concepts for his students and community.

“I think it is very important that we start putting value not only on physical assets, but also recognizing the capital present within nature and show its importance to society,” he says.

“When you substitute nature for physical capital, there is a cost, seen in losing ecosystem services which should be accounted for in a cost-benefit valuation the project.”

The value of physical capital in Kamloops (such as housing and commercial buildings) is recognized at approximately $24 billion as of 2022. However, Tsigaris and his team believe the value of parks can easily exceed the value of built capital.

Parks as assets provide opportunities for tourism, recreation and culture, air quality regulation, and habitat for plants and animals. One example of this can be seen with the Kenna Cartwright Nature Park, the largest urban park in British Columbia, which has an estimated value of $3 billion. The annual flow of ecosystem services was estimated at $45 million and rises by two per cent per year.

Titled A Study of the Value of Kamloops Parks, the book contains 11 chapters in total, with each student assigned to study a Kamloops park. Leila Abubakar, Ayoola Ajani, Saaransh Bhardwaj, Adaku Ibekwe, Arwinddeep Kaur, Sheikh Farzin Rahman, Umma Shemo, Rashad Taghiyev, Jake Truscott and David Waithe are all students who worked with Tsigaris on the book.

Taghiyev, a Masters of Science in Environmental Economics and Management (MScEEM) student from Azerbaijan, chose McDonald Park on the Kamloops North Shore. Through measurements and calculations, Taghiyev estimated it is worth $13.1 million to the city.

Kaur, another MScEEM student, found the Albert McGowan Park represents a substantial $48 million natural capital asset.

Staff in the city’s Parks and Civic Facilities department are excited, says Tsigaris. “They want to see the book and incorporate it into their planning.”

The experiential learning involved with this project stood out for the students. Kaur discovered she could apply theoretical work and the results that followed, while also learning how to make economics more straightforward and free of technical jargon to be understood by the public.

Taghiyev saw his work has a direct line to sustainability and the local economy, while underscoring the importance of ecosystem preservation and high value of green spaces to the economy, especially housing prices.

While experiential education and community benefit were core to this project, Tsigaris says sustainability was the biggest factor behind his work. “Economics should be a guiding force for the sustainability of our planet. Projects like these help make that happen.”

Read the book online here: kamloops-parks.pressbooks.tru.ca.

— Article courtesy TRU

About Mel Rothenburger (9358 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on BOOKS – How much are parks worth? More, in fact, than built capital

  1. The parks are worth a lot. And the more trees and the more vegetation the better the park. Just by empirical experience in decades of frequenting Kenna Cartwright park I came to the conclusion long time ago of the importance and significance of said park for the wellbeing of residents and visitors. I just wish multiple councils and City administrators would understand my concerns over the park. The park sees untold numbers of visitors throughout the year and it receives very little attention from our authorities as mentioned above. I have personally eradicated very many infestant trees like Russian olives and Siberian elms. I have personally removed bags of garbage from the park especially in the vicinity of active residential construction. Unfortunately the battle against knapweed appears to be lost. It is just too widespread for any meaningful eradication efforts to succeed. And I have told the administrators and various councils in the past to step in to enforce provincial laws in regards to noxious plants. But nothing came out those efforts. Now we have the added pressure of people riding electric-powered two-wheels contraptions with pedals to pretend they are bicycles. Again the local authorities and council have been warned but again there is no interest, no accountability nor care showing. Lastly, there has been a great amount of disturbance in certain sections of the park attributable to BC Hydro and Fortis. I am expecting little of this disturbance to be reinstated has it was previously, hence further eroding away at the beauty of this park. I am suspicious the neglect afflicted to this park is possibly part of a sinister plan to allow it to erode to the point it will eventually be fully converted (and sold for a song as previous parts have) to residential development.

  2. Excellent comment Kathy! Definity of important value.

    When we cut down a tree we lose ecosystem services but benefit from economic development. Our study argues that when we cut down a tree, we should account for the loss (cost) of ecosystem services the tree provides to society, and not only the net benefits from the development. Such an assessment could result in the costs exceeding the net benefits.

    Recently, President Biden and our federal government are directing policy toward nature-based solutions to climate change.

    In fact, President Biden on Earth Day 2022 signed an executive order to US government agencies to consider the benefits nature provides to society when making federal cost-benefit decisions about public projects. The first step in the process is to create government-wide natural capital accounts and include these in America’s balance sheet. This important initiative will result in measuring the economic value nature provides to society. A strong economy cannot function in an unhealthy natural environment.

    See: https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/briefing-room/2022/08/18/a-new-national-strategy-to-reflect-natural-assets-on-americas-balance-sheet/

    I am considering working on measuring the value of our lakes and rivers with my graduate students during the winter semester.

    Thank you once again,

    Peter

  3. I love this project! My daughter and I have a ‘love-affair’ with TREES! May I suggest that the tree standing alone in its beauty is a treasure to be preserved – and maybe an item of value in $$s to be added to this TRU study on the value of PARKS!

    Kathy McArthur

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