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.
“National parks are often the primary economic engines of many park gateway communities,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, in a news release.
“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 to 2012. The 16-day government shutdown last 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 said visitation so far this year 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.
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 by state on visitor spending within 60 miles of a national park, jobs supported by visitor spending, and other statistics.
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 categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).
Total recreation visits and total visitor spending ($000s) in selected National Park Service sites follow:
Arches National Park, Utah: 1,082,866; $120,171.7
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: 1,311,875; $105,705.8
Carlsbad Canyon National Park, New Mexico: 388,565; $23,589.7
Death Valley National Park, California: 951,973; $75,255.1
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah: 1,991,925; $115,593.6
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: 4,564,841; $476,194.8
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee: 9,354,695; $734,086.6
Joshua Tree National Park, California: 1,383,341; $62,929.9
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona and Nevada: 6,344,714; $260,500.1
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: 460,237; $45,089.8
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas: 515,381; $20,967.0
San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, Texas: 521,705; $28,576.1
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia:1,136,505; $72,402.6
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming: 3,188,030; $381,762.7
Yosemite National Park, California: 3,691,192; $373,269.8
Zion National Park, Utah: 2,807,387; $147,501.9
National Park Service
Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, the park service is proud to safeguard these special places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year.
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.
—Wallace Stegner, 1983