Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

No level of government has more impact on daily life than local government. That’s why my colleagues and I at Cranberry Township are passionate about pushing the limits of excellence to provide the best possible services to our residents and customers. However, being well-served is not a passive achievement; it is a collective undertaking. Through this blog, we offer our personal reflections on that assignment. And we hope it will help engage you in joining us on that same collaborative mission.

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Feb 29

Pave paradise?Or promote public parks?

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 10:34 AM by Jerry Andree

Are parks really important?  Ask most people here and they’ll tell you our parks are a huge asset.  And I happen to agree with them.  But it’s not just because they’re nice to look at, although that’s certainly a plus. 

Collectively, America’s parks generate measureable improvements in our citizen’s mental health, physical fitness, social well-being, youth development and natural environment.  Those same benefits apply on a local scale as well.  And they’re all positives for our residents. 

A recent three-year study by Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation confirmed the value of parks, along with several other of the ‘softer’ qualities that make a community desirable.  They include having places to socialize; welcoming visitors and newcomers, and concern for its appearance.  Together, they foster the attachment people feel toward their community, and the greater that sense of attachment, they found, the healthier the community’s economic growth. 

So I’m delighted that the Knight study validated what so many of us have been working on for years.  Our sense of place and resident attachment really is quite strong.  Even before we had our own post office, people here referred to their home as Cranberry rather than Mars.  Today, our recognition is even wider, and so is our economic development. 

But there’s another way of looking at our priorities – one that also fits closely with Cranberry’s history and circumstances.  It’s that a primary role for local government is to create value for its citizens and business community.  So, in addition to encouraging social connections, we work to increase their properties’ attractiveness to buyers.  Building property values involves a number of separate measures – smart zoning, streetscape enhancements, traffic management, routine maintenance, flood control, open spaces, responsive, professional public safety services, exceptional customer service and the list goes on. 

Beyond that, however, one of the most important value-building measures involves creating public amenities and providing convenient access to them.  Just as a lakefront house is worth more than one located far away, a neighborhood near parkland will see a significant boost in property values.  And it’s deserved; having the opportunity to recreate conveniently really does add value to a home.  According to the National Association of Homebuyers, proximity to parks and recreation facilities can increase home values by six to eleven percent.  High-value neighborhoods make Cranberry more attractive to new residents.  Those residents, in turn, help make Cranberry a more promising market, drawing new businesses to locate here.

Our residents keep telling us that the quality of life in Cranberry is one of the main reasons they chose to live in the Township.  And a satisfaction survey we did as part of our comprehensive planning process confirms that.  People put our park system right up there as a top asset.  Even when they’re not personally into active sports, people find that public parks provide them with a permanent green easement, and that translates into a dollar value, too.

In essence, you can think of Cranberry’s three major parks and golf course as essential parts of a larger municipal business plan – one designed to increase our community’s vitality, value, and sense of attachment, while leveraging private investments in Cranberry.  So far, that plan seems to be on track.  In just the past ten years, we’ve seen more than $1.3 billion here in privately funded new construction alone.  And in that time, 400 new businesses of every size have set up shop here.

Location, as they say in the real estate business, is everything.  And – partly thanks to our parks – a Cranberry location has become the address of choice for more and more new residents and business arrivals. 

You can read more about Cranberry’s business outlook on our new Business Hub at
www.cranberrybusinesshub.org and find out more about our plans for recreational programs and facilities at www.cranberrytownship.org/parks.

I’d welcome hearing your thoughts, too.  Write to me at:
jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org

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