[BCNnet] UIC prof: Nature centers good bang per buck
Randi Doeker - Chicago
rbdoeker at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 25 08:28:59 CDT 2006
FYI - From today's Sun-Times - Randi Doeker, Chicago
UIC prof: Nature centers good bang per buck
July 25, 2006
BY GARY <mailto:gwisby at suntimes.com> WISBY Environment Reporter
What's a visit to a nature center worth to you?
Way more than your average cost of $87 in travel and time for a six-visit
season, says economist Dan McGrath. The way he figures it -- based on a
sophisticated calculation that takes income and other demographics into
account -- you'd be willing to pay $1,200 per season.
That's how McGrath, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago,
comes up with more than $8 million as the combined "social gain" per season
at the two nature centers that are most accessible to Chicagoans.
His study concludes that the city will get good value from the $7.5 million
-- not counting a likely $500,000 annual outlay for operation and
maintenance -- it's spending on the Ford Calumet Environmental Center in the
Hegewisch Marsh. The larger meaning, says McGrath: "Nature experience in
urban areas merits investment by government."
His study used more than 350 interviews, collected by graduate student Laura
Goddeeris, of visitors to North Park Village Nature Center on the Northwest
Side and Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland, on Chicago's south
McGrath, who visited the Northwest Side center Monday, watching a grazing
doe and wandering among wildflowers, used a standardized methodology that
assessed income, gender, race and method of travel to compute visitors'
"We examined actual behavior rather than asking people's opinions," he said.
"The analogy I use is estimating the power of a motorboat by measuring the
wake it leaves behind."
Next: Study of real estate values
He thinks his work shows that the city's investment in the Ford Calumet
center, scheduled to open in 2007, will be worthwhile. One caveat -- it
hasn't been proved that Chicagoans have an unmet need for nature
experiences, although other studies point that way, McGrath said.
His $50,000 study was funded by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College
Now McGrath, a self-described environmentalist who lives in Westchester by
the Westchester Prairie, wants to look at the residential area around North
Park Village to see what the nature center has done to real estate values
since its creation in 1992.
Jennifer Cudahy is evidence those values have risen. "It's a huge selling
point to this area," said Cudahy, 36, who with her husband is buying a home
nearby on Central Park Avenue.
Pushing 16-month-old Amelia around the grounds in a stroller while her other
daughter, 3-year-old Kate, was in gymnastics class, "We saw a deer and
babies," Cudahy said.
"This is an oasis from city life, a getaway just steps away," she said.
"That's what I love about it."
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the bcnnet