National parks are big business in Colorado, new report says

According to a report released Tuesday by the National Park Service, Colorado’s national parks received more than 5.6 million visits in 2010 generating just under $293 million in spending and accounting for 6366 jobs in the state.

The Colorado figures include visitors to national monuments, historic areas and other facilities and attractions that fall under the Park Service.

Leading the way for Colorado was the granddaddy Rocky Mountain National Park, which received more than half of all Colorado park visitors and more than half of all spending. Just under three million people visited RMNP, including 174,000 who spent the night. RMNP accounts for 2641 of the Colorado park-related jobs, according to the study.

The second most visited park in the state was Mesa Verde with 559,000 visitors. Colorado National Monument was visited by 433,000 people, Great Sand Dunes National Park saw 283,000 visitors and Dinosaur had just under 200,000 people.

From the report:

The National Park System received 281 million recreation visits in 2010. Park visitors spent $12.13 billion in local gateway regions (within roughly 60 miles of the park). Visitors staying outside the park in motels, hotels, cabins and bed and breakfasts accounted for 56% of the total spending. Half of the spending was for lodging and meals, 19% for gas and local transportation, 10% for amusements, 8% for groceries, and 13% for other retail purchases.

On a party night basis, spending by visitors on overnight trips varies from $47 for backcountry campers to $341 for visitors staying in park lodges. Campers spend $116 per night if staying outside the park and $101 if staying inside the park. Spending averages at individual parks vary from these system-wide averages due to differences in local prices and spending opportunities. For example, while non-local visitors on day trips spent $39 per party at Badlands NP in 2010, their counterparts at Grand Canyon spent $146.

From a press release:

“Our National Parks and other public lands continue to be economic engines that produce and support jobs in communities across America,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “It is the reason President Obama signed an Executive Order last month to promote travel and tourism in the United States. By investing in our parks and promoting them to visitors, especially internationally, we can have the dual benefit of an improved National Park System and a stronger economy that produces more jobs.”

Salazar noted that recreation in national parks
, refuges, and other public lands alone led to nearly $55 billion in economic contribution and 440,000 jobs in 2009.

“The Department of the Interior doesn’t just oversee beautiful and historic places,” he said. “We help drive tourism and recreation that powers small businesses and creates jobs.”

Senator Mark Udall announced earlier this week that he is beginning a process that could turn part of Browns Canyon of the Arkansas into a national monument.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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