Snowshoers near Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, 2018. Photo by Will Williams for Maryland DNR.

Poll: Significant Majority of Marylanders Support Program Open Space

02/15/2021
By Elly Colmers Cowan

In a recent statewide poll conducted of likely voters, 90% of Marylanders expressed support for Program Open Space, a state program that supports the acquisition, conservation, and improvements at Maryland’s natural resources Additionally, 64% of Marylanders were opposed to diverting funds from Program Open Space for other budget uses.

Partners for Open Space, a statewide coalition of recreation, environmental, agricultural, and historic preservation organizations, recently convened a poll of likely Maryland voters to better understand residents’ views on Program Open Space, which supports the preservation of open spaces, parks, farms, forests, and cultural and historic sites. The results of the poll, conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates and New Bridge Strategy made it clear that the majority of Marylanders support this essential program and oppose any funding cuts or diversions.

KEY POLL RESULTS

These poll results underscore the value of open space to Marylanders, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many residents rely on visits to parks and open spaces as safe and enjoyable places to escape from the ongoing quarantine blues. Indeed, 2020 saw more than 17 million visitors to state and local parks by October alone.

Responding to the results of the poll, Elly Cowan, Director of Advocacy for Preservation Maryland and Smart Growth Maryland stated, “The last year has driven home the importance of open space to the quality of life and health, both physical and mental, of Marylanders. With an overwhelming majority of Marylanders supporting Program Open Space and more than 3 out of 5 Marylanders opposing diverting funds away from the program, now is certainly not the time for the General Assembly to cut funding to programs that support the maintenance, acquisition and preservation of resources that are so important to residents and those visiting our state.

Funding for Program Open Space also means an investment in Maryland’s economic future. Outdoor recreation, including walking at historic sites and at state and local parks, is a proven economic driver for Maryland, with funds generated from within the community as well as from visitors coming to Maryland specifically for recreational activities and historic experiences. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Maryland annually generates $14 billion in consumer spending, supports 109,000 jobs, generates $4.4 billion in wages and salaries, and produces nearly $951 million annually in state and local tax revenue. In 2019, heritage tourism, which Program Open Space supports through funding the state’s 13 Heritage Areas, added $2.4 billion in annual economic impact, $319.8 million in state and local tax impact, and employed nearly 34,000 people.

The Governor’s FY22 Budget includes full funding for Program Open Space. As the budget moves through the General Assembly this session, Preservation Maryland will be advocating that the full funding remain intact and will oppose any attempts to cut or divert funding from this essential program.

Executive Summary of Poll Results (PDF)

Partners for Open Space Press release (PDF)

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Elly Colmers Cowan · Director of Advocacy

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