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  April 19, 2015  

Economic Values and Benefits of State Parks


A. Catalyst for Tourism

  1. State parks play a vital role in attracting tourists. State parks attract out_of-state visitors and encourage in-state travel by residents bringing tourist dollars into the state's economy.
  2. Recreation and conservation activities attract thousands of visitors to host states. The dollars tourists invest in services, commodities and food provide an economic boost for many local economies. The thriving sales of recreation equipment and the growth of numerous recreation services, such as outfitters and guides, is dependent upon attractive and accessible recreation and conservation lands.
  3. The largest travel market is the VFR group (visiting friends and relatives). They spend a great deal of money in our states -- largely in our parks, historic sites and recreation facilities.
  4. When recreation and tourism link forces and become partners, the results include the infusion of exogenous funds and the creation of sales output, increased employment and resident household income.
  5. Investment in the budget of a state parks and recreation department not only produces important services, it also has a multiplier effect that returns greater then the original amount to the state in real dollars.
  6. If parks are not maintained, negative "word of mouth" advertising will cause visitation to decrease. Eventually, this will have a negative impact on a state's tourism industry.
  7. The impact of state parks on the state and local economies is enormous. Every travel dollar spent changes hands several times before leaving the locality in which it is spent. Only a small portion of tourism dollars is actually spent in parks. The majority of this money is paid to private businesses for gas, food, lodging and other goods. For some businesses, state parks are the very basis for their existence. Many local businesses depend on the parks clientele for profitable operations and rely on park promotions to attract new customers. State parks are detailed on maps, brochures and commercial publications and attract visitors without the private business owner having to invest in advertising. Indeed, state parks are a good investment.
  8. Parks, facilities and programs are attractive to tourists and an essential ingredient of the tourism industry (particularly our visitor centers, galleries/museums, historic sites, conservation areas and waterfront parks).
  9. Travelers are attracted to education oriented experiences provided by cultural parks and historic sites. One of the fastest growing areas of tourism in the U.S. includes cultural and historic festivals, events and competitions. This is a boon to state and community based tourism.

B. Motivation for Business Relocation and Expansion:

  1. The provision of parks and recreation services play an influential role in a state's economic development efforts. When companies choose to set up business or relocate, the availability of recreation, parks and open spaces is high on the priority list for site selection. Recreation and parks have a significant influence on people's preferred living locations.
  2. Companies have great flexibility in where they locate (those not tied to raw materials, energy supplies or customer locations), and make decisions based on the quality of life for their employees. For these companies, most of them new high technology firms, recreation and conservation resources are fundamental to their definition of a community's quality of life.
  3. The National Park Service cite numerous examples based on different states and communities that support quality of life as the main factor in recruiting a business. Quality of life includes convenient access to natural settings; recreational and cultural opportunities and open space; and greenways, rivers and trails located in and adjacent to communities.
  4. Construction or rehabilitation of state park facilities, trails roadways, or interpretive centers can be an important source of construction and supplier jobs. Once built, the permanent facilities prompt other, long-term investments and lobs - such as concession stands, hotels and inns, restaurants, rental shops, map publishers and event organizers.

C. Investments in Environmental Protection:

  1. Use of geologically or environmentally sensitive areas for open space or recreation purposes can reduce potential property damage costs and loss of life. Hazards which can be mitigated through conservation of open space include flooding, slope instability, structural fire damage and earthquake losses.
  2. Research has shown that the economic benefits of park land trees and forests are enormous. For example, areas identified as having significant economic impacts are increased real estate values, energy savings, enhanced opportunities for recreation, improved air quality and storm-water management.
  3. Habitat protection and recreation provision is often the highest and best use of lands that are too fragile for development (e.g., slopes, aquifers, woodlots/urban lungs, floodways). The cost of not protecting these assets is incredibly high in the long run.

D. Savings Through Better Health and Lower Crime:

  1. Physical and mental health achieved through recreation and balanced, meaningful lifestyles reduces expensive health care costs.
  2. The nation could save $20 billion per year in the United States if every sedentary American walked an hour a day according to a study conducted by Brown University.
  3. The confidence and personal development that one gains through recreation activity enhances the individual's ability to access more productive work roles, generally increasing the community's productivity (and GNP).
  4. Employees who recreate and are physically fit are more productive, absent less often and less likely to have an accident.
  5. Parks and recreation programs can provide positive activities for youth leisure time. It costs more than one hundred times per youth to incarcerate a child than it does to provide recreation programs.
  6. In the U.S. in 1992, 21.8 million youth under the age of 21 were arrested and the cost of incarcerating these youth was $2.3 billion annually. According to James Sharp, former president of the National League of Cities, "We are going to recreate or we are going to incarcerate."
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