Gauley Season

Rafters hit a rapid on the Gauley River near the Summersville Dam Friday during the opening day of the Gauley season.

GLEN JEAN — The three National Parks of southern West Virginia had a $60.5 million cumulative impact on the area’s economy in 2014, according to a National Park Service report released Thursday. 

The 2014 National Park Visitor Spending Effects Report shows that 1,280,604 visitors experienced the New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River, and Gauley River National Recreation Area in 2014 and spent $53,448,900 in communities near the park. That spending supported 808 jobs and generated additional economic impact.

“The National Parks of Southern West Virginia are proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Trish Kicklighter. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

There were a total of 1,124,799 recreation visits to the New River Gorge National River with $47 million spend. Bluestone National Scenic River was 38,450 visits and $1.58 million spend and the Gauley River National Recreation Area saw 117,355 visits and $4.85 million spend.

Harpers Ferry National History Park saw 261,203 visitors and $12.3 million dollars spent in 2014, bringing the total visitors to West Virginia’s national parks in 2014 to 1.541,807. In all $65.8 million was spent in communities within 60 miles of a park.

The economic impact of the National Park System across the United State was $15.7 billion over 292 million recreation visits.

According to the 2014 report, most park visitor spending across the U.S. was for lodging (30.6 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.3 percent), gas and oil (11.9 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.9 percent).

The report shows a system-wide visitation increase of 7 percent compared to 2013, although a 16-day government shutdown and closures after Superstorm Sandy caused a decline in visits that year.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and National Park Service economist Lynne Koontz.

The report is available online at www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @Sarah_E_Plummer

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