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Impact Study of James River Park System Leads to Two New Positions for Park

During the Fall of 2016, Victoria Shivy, associate professor in the VCU Department of Psychology and Ivan Suen, associate professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, partnered with the James River Park System (JRPS) and Friends of James River Park Systemto complete an economic impact study of the JRPS.

Key findings of the study included:

  • For every $1 the City of Richmond invests in the JRPS, the return on investment (in terms of economic impact) is $60.26 in visitor spending.
  • The JRPS likely generates $33.5M per year in tourism for the City of Richmond.
  • Proximity to the JRPS enhances citizens' property values  - a $6.79 increase for every foot that their property is closer to a park boundary.

As a result of the study, two new employment lines for the JRPS, valued at $86,000, were funded by the City Council.

“Being able to see this kind of impact - it was more significant to me personally than most all of the other research that I've conducted,” Shivy said. “These are real jobs, with living wages and benefits that, in turn, will help keep our park system beautiful, safe and wild.”

For nearly 20 years, Shivy has taught an undergraduate course in research methods, and since 2012, her students have benefitted from her partnership with the JRPS.

“My students and I have conducted numerous studies in the JRPS,” Shivy said. “So in many cases, my students have learned how to do research by actually doing research in the JRPS. In addition, I can talk about my work with the park to illustrate nearly any concept that I teach in the classroom. What could be better?”

In the future Shivy would like to continue her research in this area to empirically demonstrate the health-related benefits of being in a natural environment and ultimately see the JRPS have the resources to address some of the health-related disparities that are seen in Richmond.

We are a very diverse city, and I want to see all of our citizens able and willing to get into our great park system,” Shivy said. “There are some lingering perceptions of the JRPS that could be changed by introducing more people to the parks.”

View the study on Scholars Compass or contact Shivy at