Monumental effect: Visitors add $31 million to Grand Valley economy

Visitors to the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction contributed $31 million to the local economy in 2014, according to the latest results of an annual analysis conducted by the National Park Service.

The cumulative economic impact of visits to national parks was estimated at $552.1 million in Colorado and $29.7 billion in the United States.

“This new report confirms that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 America invests in the National Park Service. This reality makes national parks tourism a big factor in Colorado’s economy, too,” said Sue Masica, director of the National Park Service Intermountain Region, which includes Colorado and seven other states.

The Colorado National Monument attracted 416,862 visitors in 2014.  That’s a 1.8 percent increase over 2013, but a nearly 8.3 percent decrease from 2013. Annual visitation peaked at 561,405 in 1978.

Those visitors spent a total of about $25 million in communities near the monument. That spending in turn supported 386 jobs in the local area. The cumulative economic contributions from visitors to the monument totaled $31 million.

“Colorado National Monument welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Ken Mabery, interim superintendent. “We are delighted to share the park’s story and experiences. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors, and we are glad to be able to give back to the local communities.”

Economists with the National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey conducted the spending analysis. They determined 30.6 percent of spending by park visitors was for lodging, followed by food and beverages at 20.3 percent, gasoline and oil at 11.9 percent, admissions and fees at
10.2 percent and souvenirs and other expenses at 9.9 percent.

In Colorado, more than 6 million visits to a total of 12 national parks, monuments, historic sites and recreation areas were reported in 2014, an 11.8 percent increase over 2013.

Visitors spent a cumulative $374.4 million in Colorado, money that supported 5,811 jobs in the state. The total economic contribution to the state economy hit $552.1 million.

Nationwide, 292.8 million visits were reported, resulting in $15.7 billion in communities within 60 miles of national parks, monuments, historic sites and recreation areas. That spending supported 277,000 jobs. The cumulative economic benefit was calculated to total $29.7 billion.