Study: Park Service’s area impact $48 million a year
Report: Tourism from national battlefields park provided Fredericksburg area with 658 jobs in 2011
BY CLINT SCHEMMER / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
The National Park Service reported today that the 908,836 visitors to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park spent $48.11 million in the city and four counties neighboring the park in 2011.
That spending supported 658 local jobs, according to a peer-reviewed analysis of national park visitors across the U.S. conducted by Michigan State University.
“Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania County National Military Park is a wonderful place to learn about America’s Civil War and its impact on the nation,” Superintendent Russ Smith said in a statement.
“We attract visitors from across the U.S. and around the world who come here to experience the park and local historic sites and then spend time and money enjoying the services provided by our community.”
Of the 50 states, Virginia was the eighth largest beneficiary of national park visitor spending, ranking No. 8 with $620 million. That puts it in the same league as Utah, better known for its four big national parks, and Wyoming, home of Grand Teton and Yellowstone, Smith noted in an interview.
Nationwide, 279 million park visitors spent $13 billion in communities within 60 miles of a national park in 2011, the report states. That had a $30 billion impact on the whole U.S. economy, supporting 252,000 jobs.
Most visitor spending creates jobs in lodging, food and beverage service (63 percent); recreation and entertainment (17 percent); other retail (11 percent); and transportation and fuel (7 percent), the report states.
In Washington on Monday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said thousands of Interior Department workers would be furloughed, and thousands more seasonal workers would not be hired under automatic spending cuts set to take effect Friday.
Visiting hours at all 398 national parks are likely to be cut, and sensitive areas would be blocked off to the public under what Salazar termed “Draconian” cuts required by a budget-cutting law.
In an afternoon press conference, Salazar said the Park Service’s $112 million in cuts are especially grim, since they hit just as parks are preparing for an influx of spring and summer visitors.
Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said visitors will encounter locked restrooms and fewer rangers, and see trash cans emptied less often if Congress does not reach a deal to avoid 5 percent across-the-board cuts.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.