Study Points To Economic Benefits of Colonial National Historical Park

A report from the National Parks Conservation Association touts the economics of national parks in Virginia.

Perhaps President Obama, in his effort to get Congress to support his jobs bill, should have mentioned the economic might of investing in national parks. While here at the Traveler we believe you don't need to stress economics when discussing the value of parks, their ability to generate jobs can't be ignored.

Take, for instance, Colonial National Historical Park, Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Yorktown Battlefield in Virginia. According to a report from the National Parks Conservation Association, these destinations provide jobs, open space, and recreational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

“Tourism is an $18 billion industry in Virginia,” said Pam Goddard, NPCA’s Chesapeake and Virginia program manager. “Colonial National Historical Park contributes to the thriving industry by attracting visitors to experience the park’s historic sites such as the Yorktown battlefield and the Jamestown glassblowing studio, spending money and supporting the local economy.”

The report, Making Connections: Colonial National Historical Park Enhances Economic Vitality in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, finds that the historical park alone attracted 363,000 visitors last year who stopped at a park visitor center or participated in programs. (Total reported visitation in 2010 was 3.4 million, including trips on the Colonial Parkway.) Those visitors spent an estimated $327 million in the Historic Triangle region, it points out. Notably, this spending supported 1,184 local private-sector jobs while the National Park Service directly employed 81 staff members at the park.

“The national park and historic sites in the Historic Triangle are among the top 25 destinations for visitors to the Commonwealth,” said Ms. Goddard. “Citizens retreat to these special places to see American history come to life and to enjoy the great outdoor space and recreational opportunities.”

Making Connections also highlights the positive impact a new national park at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, would have on the Historic Triangle and the local economy. Drawing nearly 23 million recreational visitors last year, Virginia’s national parks foster nearly $500 million in non-local visitor spending annually, with value-added economic benefits beyond that.

“There is a growing demand for recreational opportunities throughout the state for hiking, birding, boating and other outdoor activities,” said Ms. Goddard. “The Old Point Comfort Peninsula offers public access to over two miles of beautiful Chesapeake Bay shoreline, camping facilities and a marina. Fort Monroe’s rich history and beaches will create a world-class destination and infuse tourist dollars into the regional economy.”

Virginia tourism is one of the few industries that continue to grow in the current economic climate. Four out of ten jobs in the area are in tourism-related businesses, according to NPCA figures.

In light of a national study commissioned by NPCA in 2006 that found that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public, the park advocacy group says the addition of a park at Fort Monroe will complement Virginia’s Historic Triangle and boost local economies.

The National Park Service predicts a dramatic increase in Civil War park visitation during the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The Mid-Atlantic region faces a remarkable opportunity to expand upon its tourism industry and recreational amenities in ways that are compatible with the Historic Triangle’s character, NPCA believes. The addition of Fort Monroe to the National Park System would benefit area residents, as well as the heritage travelers that visit the region, it adds.

Comments

Thanks for this nice article. I speak as someone who has worked for six
years to see Fort Monroe saved from the development interests that not only
still threaten it, but that threaten it even if a national park gets created on
part of it. It’s vital to understand that this national treasure remains in
grave danger of overdevelopment that would counterproductively degrade not only
its sense of place, but -- ironically -- the very economic potential that the
overdevelopers hope to exploit. Fort Monroe is colossally valuable as waterfront
real estate. This makes the stakes so high that, back in 2005, the National
Trust for Historic Preservation apparently decided not to stand up for the
entire national historic landmark -- which is almost all of the land of this
bayfront Army post, and is not just the part containing the famous moated stone
fortress. This precious land goes back 400 years in American history to even
before the 1619 landing of the first captive Africans there, en route to
Jamestown. Without public, national affirmation from the National Trust that
anything important to America has been at risk, we have also naturally lacked
for journalistic skepticism in the national media about Virginia’s leaders’
intentions. Meanwhile, the smiley-faced picture that’s painted here in Tidewater
-- and credulously accepted in Washington, and, sad to tell, endorsed by the
National Trust -- is that history-minded Virginia politicians are dutifully
seeking the best balance between preservation and development. But that picture
is false. Without National Trust affirmation of the danger, it has been a long
struggle even to get Virginia’s leaders to _act_ like the history is paramount,
much less to act _on_ that reality. So we need help here in Tidewater. Fort
Monroe needs to become a revenue-generating, taxpayer-minimally-burdening Grand
Public Place built on a substantial national park -- a national park embracing
the former Army post’s entire sense-of-place-defining bayfront shoreline. This
national park should have no shorefront gap for what the Richmond Times Dispatch
recently called the “swanky condos” that developers still hope to build.
Non-national-park-related development should be kept inland. Otherwise it’ll be
too much like a Monticello marred by hillside subdivisions. And ironically, if
it’s overdeveloped, it’ll actually make _less_ money for its own self-sustenance
and for the local economy. Thanks. Steven T. Corneliussen,
(For more, please Google “Corneliussen Times Dispatch”
and read my recent Richmond Times Dispatch op-ed.)