Monday, May 19, 2014

Remarkable deal on Parkland for the Public

One of the great bargains of living in Northern Virginia is that you get wonderful destination parks offered by NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) for a bargain. The tax dollar cost per person for this system of 25 unique and iconic parks (over 11,000 acres) is just $1.89 per year.

One of the keys to this remarkable deal is that through enterprise operations we are able to generate 85% of our operating revenues! Below is a chart that was published in the May issue of Park and Recreation Magazine. The column that is called "Spending per Resident" is the one that compares to our unusual $1.89 per person per year, tax support.

NOVA Parks is truly unique in the deal that we provide the public. Local park systems in the Northern Virginia area range from $27.5 to $179.2 in their tax dollars per person per year.

Part of the difference between these system is how extensive they are. It is no surprise that a simple system can be at a lower cost than a fancy system. But that is not the entire issue. NOVA Parks has some of the best and most iconic parks in the nation, places like the W&OD Trail, Meadowlark Gardens, Bull Run, Algonkian, Carlyle House and much, much more.The other issue is how the agency has structured their funding. In some areas free services are seen as a great virtue and that is an OK choice, but leads to a higher level of tax support. Offering value added services that people can choose to do with they want, is another way. At NOVA Parks 90+% of our parkland is free to the public, but beyond just the land, there are things to do that have reasonable fees connected to them. By offering a good value for these extra services, these offerings are very popular, and drive more visitation. This approach helps make an expanding park system available to the public with a low level of taxpayer support. A win-win solution in many ways.

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