The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 4, 2014

NPS Report: Tourists spend $45 million visiting New River Gorge

By Cody Neff
Register-Herald Reporter

— If you’ve spent some time in a national park recently, whether it was to commune with nature or to steal some picnic baskets, you’ve helped the economy, according to a report from the National Park Service.

“In 2012, the National Park System received over 282 million recreation visits,” the report says. “NPS visitors spent $14.7 billion in local gateway regions (defined as communities within 60 miles of a park). The contribution of this spending to the national economy was 243,000 jobs, $9.3 billion in labor income, $15.8 billion in value added and $26.8 billion in output.  

“The lodging sector saw the highest direct contributions with more than 40,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in output directly contributed to local gateway economies nationally.  The sector with the next greatest direct contributions was restaurants and bars, with 51,000 jobs and $3 billion in output directly contributed to local gateway economies nationally.”

A national park can create a ripple effect in itself and its surrounding areas, the report says. Visitors buying goods and services directly from a park support the park. People leaving the park and using the goods and services in the area help. Anyone who works in a park and buys goods with their pay from the park is helping the economy because of the park.

At the New River Gorge National River near Fayetteville, there were just over a million visitors and about 750,000 of those were not locals. People spent $45 million in the New River Gorge region and $40 million of that was from nonlocals.

Non-locals account for about 70 percent of visits to the New River Gorge area, but they make up almost 90 percent of the money spent in the area. The New River Gorge National River supports 542 jobs.

Harpers Ferry, located in the Eastern Panhandle, had 263,105 visitors in 2012 and 210,485 of those visitors were non-locals. Visitors spent almost $12 million in the park and put out $16,171,300 in regional sales for the region. The park supports 168 jobs.

Harpers Ferry National Historic Park and the New River Gorge National River create over 700 jobs between them and put out over $65 million in revenue.

These numbers rank West Virginia 33rd among all states in national park visitation.

These boosts to the economy and the region aren’t exclusive to West Virginia. National parks generated almost $27 billion and supported about 243,000 jobs, the report says.

“National parks like Yellowstone and Gettysburg are places of unimaginable beauty and powerful history that help tell America’s story while connecting us with nature,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.

“At the same time, our national parks help propel our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who are the lifeblood of the hotels, restaurants, outfitters, and other local businesses that depend on a vibrant and reliable tourism and outdoor recreation industry supported by our public lands.”

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com