The Clean Ohio Fund – the state’s primary funding source for open space conservation, farmland preservation, brownfield revitalization, and trail creation – has been a popular program. Now two independent studies have documented how the program generates big returns for the state’s economy.
Clean Ohio is a $400 million bond issue originally passed by voters in 2000 and then reauthorized overwhelmingly in 2008. But tight state budgets have made state legislators and the Kasich Administration reluctant to appropriate funds to maintain the successful program. Two recent studies, however, argue that Clean Ohio is a great investment.
According to an economic analysis by the Trust for Public Land, “every $1 invested in land conservation returned $4 in natural goods and services to the Ohio economy. Additionally, projects funded through the program provide a multitude of economic benefits to the people, communities, and business of the state in the form of jobs, tourism and visitor spending, tax revenue, enhanced property values, agricultural output, quality of life, and others.”
Looking at a representative sample of 21 projects funded by the brownfield cleanup and redevelopment portion of Clean Ohio, the Greater Ohio Policy Center found the projects “resulted in a net positive value for the state’s investment, producing $1.16 billion in one-time contributions and contributing $1.4 billion annually to the state’s Gross Domestic Product.” In addition, grants to support brownfield redevelopment also level the playing field between brownfield and greenfield development, promoting more sustainable patterns of development in the state by:
- Protecting precious farmland and open space from conversion into new development.
- Helping Ohio’s cities, villages, and townships avoid the high cost of developing new roads, sewers, and utility lines by redeveloping sites linked to existing infrastructure.
- Making Ohio’s urban neighborhoods more attractive, dense, and walkable—key locational attributes desirable to new generations of homeowners, taxpayers, and families.
Continued funding of Clean Ohio is now being debated as part of the state’s two-year budget process. Groups interested in natural areas, trails, farmland protection and urban redevelopment are lobbying hard that this is no time to cut a program with such widespread economic and quality-of-life benefits.
The source of funds is also important. One problem with the Ohio House of Representative’s version of the budget bill (HB 59) is a proposal to funnel half of any proceeds the state may gain from fracking for oil and gas in state parks to the Clean Ohio Fund – meaning that some natural areas could be damaged to help pay for others.