National Parks are Major Economic Engines for Local Communities

WASHINGTON D.C. – Not only are National Parks natural treasures that provide recreation for millions of visitors, but they are also important economic engines for local communities. According to a peer-reviewed report released last month by the National Park Service, visitors generated $30.1 billion in economic activity and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide in 2011.

The statistics in the report are based on the spending of nearly 279 million national park visitors in 2011. More than a third of that total spending - $13 billion - went directly into local communities within 60 miles of a park. The report showed most visitor spending supports jobs in hospitality (lodging, food, and beverage service), followed by recreation/entertainment, retail, transportation/fuel, and wholesale/manufacturing.

“Places like the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty take our breath away and inspire us with their beauty and history, but our national parks also serve as anchors for our nation’s economy,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “People who visit parks need transportation, places to stay, and meals to eat – all of which support businesses and provide jobs in local communities.”

“Everyone knows that national parks are great places to visit that offer inspiring educational experiences, unparalleled outdoor recreation, and a whole lot of fun,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “But what this report shows is that America’s national parks are also critical economic engines, not only for our neighbors in gateway communities, but for our entire country.  The national parks return more than $10 for every $1 the American taxpayer invests in the National Park Service; that makes good stewardship sense and good business sense.”

The National Park Service report is prepared on an annual basis through a cooperative agreement with Michigan State University.  The full report is titled Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2011 and is available online at: The report includes breakdowns on spending, jobs and other impacts.