By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
A new report from the National Park Service shows that in 2016 the 1,688,734 visitors to Oklahoma national parks spent $27.2 million in the state. This activity supported 304 jobs.
The results represent a 34.6 percent increase in visitor spending and 33.4 percent rise in visitation over 2015, the report stated.
“From Chickasaw National Recreation Area to Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, the national park units of Oklahoma attract visitors from within the state, across the country and around the world,” said NPS Intermountain Region Director Sue Masica.
“Whether they are out for a weekend, a school field trip, or a month-long vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending some money along the way. This new report also shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the Park Service – and a big factor in Oklahoma’s economy. That’s a result we can all support.”
Oklahoma’s three national park sites include Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Chickasaw National Recreation Area and Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Economist Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service conducted the peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis. The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors nationwide in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally, with 271,544 of those jobs in these park gateway communities.
The overall benefit to the nation’s economy was $34.9 billion.
According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending, by percentage, was for lodging (31.2 percent), followed by food and beverages (27.2), gas and oil (11.7), admissions and fees (10.2), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7), local transportation (7.4), and camping fees (2.5).
New this year, an interactive tool was created that allows users to explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. This report includes information for visitor spending by park and by state.
The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage.
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to- home recreational opportunities.
To learn more about national parks in Oklahoma and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, visit the website.