Report: park visits economic driver

Visitors to national monuments and parks in Colorado during 2012 spent a total of nearly $350 million and supported almost 5,000 jobs in the state, according to a new report from the National Park Service.

“From Mesa Verde to Dinosaur National Monument, the national parks of Colorado attract millions of visitors a year from across the country and around the world,” said Sue Masica, director of the National Park Service Intermountain Region, which includes Colorado and seven other states.

“Whether these park visitors are out for an afternoon, on a school field trip or taking a long family vacation, they come for a great experience — and they end up spending a little money along the way, too,” Masica said.

According to the report, the 5,811,546 visitors to Colorado national monuments and parks in 2012 spent a total of $347.4 million and supported 4,991 jobs in the state.

“This new report confirms that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy,  returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service. This reality makes parks tourism an important factor in Colorado’s economy as well. It’s a result we all can support,” Masica said.

Colorado’s 12 national parks include: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain national parks; Colorado, Dinosaur, Florissant Fossil Beds, Hovenweep and Yucca House national monuments; Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre national historic sites, and Curecanti National Recreation Area.

The visitor spending analysis was conducted for the National Park Service by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas, Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz.

The analysis found that nationwide, 283 million visitors to national monuments and parks in 2012 accounted for a total of $14.7 million in direct spending in communities within 60 miles. That spending supported 243,000 jobs, 201,000 of those in park “gateway” communities.

The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was estimated at $26.75 billion.

According to the report, most visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores (39 percent); hotels, motels and B&Bs (27 percent); and other amusement and recreation (20 percent).

The National Park Service and Interior Department also reported a 16-day government shutdown in October 213 resulted in a decrease of almost 8 million park visitors and a loss of $414 million in visitor spending.