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Why a beach’s economic power matters to you

By Staff | Jul 27, 2011

Last time, we asked: What’s the economic value to your community of having a beach? The answer, while not as easy as it may appear, is still worth pursuit — because many things flow from knowing the coastal economy.

Previously, we suggested five areas where the coastal economy could be quantified:

• Expenditures, direct and indirect.

• Jobs.

• Taxes, direct and indirect.

• Property values.

• The intangibles a coastal community brings to the larger economy.

Why should you — as a coastal resident, business person, official or advocate — care? Consider these reasons:

1. Fairly apportioning the cost of coastal management. In communities where residents and businesses are asked to contribute to the coastal management program, a better grasp of the inner workings of the coastal economy is the first step toward establishing a fair (and legally defensible) apportionment plan to pay for the shoreline. Once you begin to understand how property owners, businesses and governments all benefit from the coastal economy, you can begin to develop a way to fund its management that’s based on reality — not just wishes and guesses.

2. Identifying beach users who contribute to the coastal economy. Often, some beach users get all the attention while others are ignored… particularly when it comes to planning a beach’s management. But if you can make the economic case that, say, those who come to the beach to surf, fish or just spend the day contribute a reasonable share to the overall coastal economy, it’s then easier to ensure their interests (and access and amenities) are better represented in any management design in fair proportion to coastal residents, visitors and businesses.

3. Justifying the (often considerable) investment in sound coastal management. Beach management typically costs a lot all at once, followed by years of return-on-investment. However, getting people to write that often large check is easier when they see the payback over time… or when they put together a funding plan that steadily accumulates the necessary monies over the years prior to the next restoration project or resource enhancement effort.

4. Seeking a fair funding mechanism for coastal protection. Those who benefit from the coast should pay for its protection, right? Well, in order to do that, you need to know who benefits and how much… so when the time comes to pay the next bill for coastal management, everyone is assigned a fair share. This is particularly important when it comes to levels of government; if, say, the state or federal government gets revenue from the sales or property taxes generated by a beach community, those entities should be asked to pay some of that back to maintain this valuable coastal economic resource.

5. Valuing a natural resource too often taken for granted. (This isn’t just a coastal problem, it affects natural resources in general.) Too often, it’s easy to overlook the economic benefit we all derive from natural resources so easily at our disposal… until, by overuse, under-investment or simple benign neglect, that resource is degraded to the point its economic value is threatened and any revitalization costs far more than the price of simple maintenance. If we recognize what beaches mean to us economically (not to discount all the other ways they matter), we can make a better case to use them wisely and maintain them prudently before they are threatened with degradation or even destruction.

The bottom line: Knowing how beaches contribute to the economy is essential to maintaining and managing them to the benefit of all who use them, rely on them and love them.

Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on the ASBPA, visit www.asbpa.org, Facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.