National Park Tourism Benefits Local Economies

March 5, 2012 Updated: March 5, 2012

Visitors to national parks throughout the United States contributed more than $31 billion to local economies in 2010, according to a recent study released by the Nation Park Service (NPS). In addition to dollars pumped into local areas, the NPS says approximately 258,000 jobs are supported through tourist visits to parks and national treasures.

“Our National Parks and other public lands continue to be economic engines that produce and support jobs in communities across America,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said according to a Department of the Interior (DOI) press release. “It is the reason President Obama signed an executive order last month to promote travel and tourism in the United States.

“By investing in our parks and promoting them to visitors, especially internationally, we can have the dual benefit of an improved National Park System and a stronger economy that produces more jobs,” Salazar added.

According to the NPS study, a breakdown of the numbers reveals that of the $31 billion earned and 258,000 jobs created, 52 percent were in the lodging, food, and beverage industries, with 29 percent coming from retail, followed by 10 percent in entertainment and amusement, gas and local transportation came out to only 7 percent, and groceries accounted for 2 percent.

The release of the recent study preceded President Obama’s White House Growing America’s Outdoor Heritage and Economy conference March 2.

The conference was the latest step in the president’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a program focusing on community driven conservation efforts.

In terms of future conservation efforts, the Great Outdoors Initiative will help to increase youth employment in conservation jobs and invest in expanding conservation lands.

The Florida Everglades is the DOI’s current focus for wetland restoration and expansion. Additionally, the hope is to open up lands under the Great Outdoors program for expanded recreational access, and increase the creation of urban parks and trails.

“The Department of the Interior doesn’t just oversee beautiful and historic places,” Salazar continued. “We help drive tourism and recreation that powers small businesses and creates jobs.”

New York Parks

New York state, for instance, had 17,389,242 visitors to their national parks in 2010. Those visitors spent $490,911,000 and supported the 5,780 related jobs, according to the NPS data.

The Fire Island National Seashore Park had 613,057 visitors that same year who spent around $35,076,000 in the local communities, supporting around 443 jobs. Fire Island National Seashore is located on Fire Island, in the village of Patchogue, N.Y.

“These figures generated from NPS visitation statistics are a fraction of Fire Island’s overall benefit to the local economy,” said Fire Island’s Superintendent Chris Soller in an NPS press release. “But the value of being part of the National Park Service enhances tourism and helps drive the local economy, while protecting nationally significant historic, cultural, and natural resources.”

Additionally in 2010, the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site recorded 55,149 visitors who spent $3,566,000 in the local communities, supporting 46 jobs.

“The people and the business owners in communities near national parks have always known their economic value,” said Park Superintendent Thomas Ross of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, in the NPS press release.

“National parks are best known for their incredible beauty and the preservation of America’s historical legacy, but they are also critical assets for local economies,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The investment American taxpayers make in their national parks continues to offer a huge return, not only in priceless family experiences but in real jobs and economic growth in our gateway communities that ripples to suppliers across the nation.”

The peer-reviewed NPS report is conducted annually and headed by Dr. Daniel Stynes of Michigan State University. The official report, titled, “Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010,” can be viewed at nature.nps.gov.