Our Great Parks Are Economic Engines
National park visitors contributed $26.5 billion to the nation's economy and supported almost 240,000 jobs in 2013, according to a peer-reviewed report released by the National Park Service.
"National parks are often the primary economic engines of many park gateway communities," said NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "While park rangers provide interpretation of the iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes, nearby communities provide our visitors with services that support hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs."
National park visitation for 2013 declined by 3.2 percent compared with 2012. The 16-day government shutdown in October accounted for most of the decline. National parks in the Northeast, closed for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, were the other significant brake on visitation.
Visitor spending for 2013 was down by 1 percent. The number of jobs supported by visitor spending was off by 2.1 percent, and the overall effect on the U.S. economy was 1 percent lower than the previous year due to adjustments for inflation.
"The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear," Jarvis said. "Every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy because of visitor spending in gateway communities near the 401 parks of the National Park System."
Jarvis added that visitation so far in 2014 indicates a rebound from 2013, and he expects a steady increase as excitement grows in advance of the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service.
A Centennial Initiative established for the anniversary represents a multi-year effort to invest wisely in the park system's most important assets, use parks to enhance informal learning, engage volunteers, provide training opportunities for youth, and enhance the National Park Service's ability to leverage partnerships to accomplish its mission.
The annual report, "2013 National Park Visitor Spending Effects," was prepared by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. It includes information by park and state on visitor spending within 60 miles of a national park, jobs supported by visitor spending and other statistics. The report can be found at www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/docs/
According to the 2013 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent), followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent), and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent). The largest jobs category supported by visitors spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38.000 jobs).
For more information on economics and the National Park Service, visit www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.