The op-ed by AG Lafley originally appeared in the Observer on April 1, 2021.
Health, well-being and economic value are all affected by plan to build 53-acre park along Sarasota Bay.
The Bay Park is a very good investment.
For 50 years, working at P&G, in private equity and venture capital, I have made a lot of investments in new businesses, new technologies, products and services, in emerging markets, and more.
And, as a philanthropist, I have tried to focus impact investments on a few education, healthcare, conservation and environmental initiatives to maximize the value created.
I am learning that a well-located, well-designed, professionally developed and managed park can generate some of the best and most sustainable returns.
A park like The Bay can create significant economic value.
Increasing real property values.
Increasing city, county and state tax revenues, from property, sales and tourist taxes.
Increasing commercial activity in and near the park through all phases: during initial design/planning, developing/build-out and operating/maintaining the park. Commercial activity increases through real estate development in areas near the park.
Conservation and Environmental Value
Transforming 53 acres of parking lot and underused or vacant facilities into a blue and green oasis on Sarasota Bay and conserving this park land forever for broad public benefit and use creates immeasurable value. In a 2018 City of Sarasota Parks and Recreation study, residents said the most important benefit of public parks is the “conservation of nature”.
Restoring the bay shoreline, mangroves and wetlands, to preserve, protect and sustain the flora and fauna unique to our local ecosystem.
Improving air quality by planting hundreds of native trees, shrubs and other vegetation that remove pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone from the air we breathe.
Treating virtually every drop of storm water that flows through the park before it empties into the bayou or the bay by creating green spaces and mini reservoirs to accumulate and store stormwater, installing a series of innovative water treatment systems including storm water baffle boxes and denitrification trenches, replacing impervious parking lots with green parkland, and strategically constructing new pervious parking and walkways.
Key measures of environmental health will be tracked over time to demonstrate progress and ensure sustainability.
Improved Community Health
Public parks enable, encourage and promote healthy activity. 75% of Americans live within walking distance of a public park. In the 2018 National Recreation and Park Association survey, more Americans said they walk, jog, run or bike (79%) to a park than drive (69%). Two of the top three reasons they go to the park are to exercise (54%) and get closer to nature (51%). 62% go to the park to be with family and/or friends.
Many studies have reported better health outcomes, and lower health costs for individuals who use parks for fitness and recreation. Several cities, including San Diego, have demonstrated lower total community health costs. There is consistent and growing evidence that the increase in activity that comes with regular public park usage improves physical and mental health, reduces anxiety and stress, and contributes to happiness and well-being.
Community and Social Value
Well-located, well-planned, and well-managed parks, like The Bay, foster community, not only for neighbors who live nearby but also for residents of the city, county and region, and for visitors who come to Sarasota.
The Bay will host activities that are open and accessible, free and welcoming to all. Arts, cultural and educational programs; Health, fitness and recreational programs; Social gatherings like food festivals; vital public services like COVID-19 vaccinations and distribution of free Thanksgiving dinners.
Think about the broad-based value creation of a new public park like The Bay.
Is there really any other sustainable Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment like it? One that:
- Delivers the breadth, consistency and reliability of economic and financial returns to businesses, home owners, and governments.
- Delivers transformational conservation and environmental benefits that are sustainable.
- Improves individual park goers health and fitness and lowers community health costs.
- Strengthens the bonds of community and holds out the very real promise of bringing Sarasota together at a gathering place for all.
The Bay offers a unique opportunity to bring together people of all ages from all backgrounds who, because of where we live, work, socialize, worship, etc., do not in the normal course of our lives come in significant contact with others who are different from ourselves. The Bay Park will become common ground that will enable and encourage coming together, engaging in conversation, sharing a walk, a love of nature, a sunset on beautiful Sarasota bay…and getting to know another person in our community a little bit better.
That’s the kind of economic, environmental, health and social value creation we’re expecting from the new Bay Park. The new Mangrove Walkway will open in mid-April. The first 10 acres will begin development and should be open to the public a year from now.
We look forward to seeing you there.
AG Lafley is the former CEO and Chairman of P&G. He currently serves on the boards of Omeza, Snap and Tulco, as Founding CEO of the Bay Park Conservancy. He is the co-author of “Playing to Win” and the co-creator of leadingtowin.com, a free leadership and strategy knowledge sharing platform for small business owners, non-profit leaders, and freelancers.