Importance of National Parks

National Parks are important to the economy and a joy to visit.

Their beauty is self evident. Just ask anyone who has had the good fortune to visit one recently.

What may surprise folks is what they mean to the area’s economy.

A new National Park Service report shows that 2,192,477 visitors to national parks in Michigan spent $181.7 million and supported 2,819 jobs in the state in 2012.

“The national parks of Michigan attract visitors from across the country and around the world and provide premiere historical, cultural, natural, and recreational experiences,” said National Park Service Midwest Regional Director Michael T. Reynolds.

“This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested – and funding generated by national parks has a swift and direct positive impact on local economies in Michigan as well,” Reynolds said in a statement.

The national parks in Michigan include Isle Royale National Park in Houghton; Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising; River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe; and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire.

“Isle Royale is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Park Superintendent Phyllis Green.

“We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides and to use the park as a way to introduce visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers,” Green said. “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.”

In Wisconsin, there are the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior; Ice Age National Scenic Trail at Madison; St. Croix National Scenic Riverway at St. Croix Falls; and the North Country National Scenic Trail along northwestern Wisconsin.

The report shows that the 273,933 visitors to Wisconsin parks spent $28.4 million in 2012.

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

The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.75 billion.

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