Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park leave quite a bit behind when they head home after visiting the park. In fact, a study shows that in 2010 the park's 9 million or so visitors spent more than $818 million in gateway communities surrounding the national park.
That total is more than any other unit of the National Park System could match, according to the study done for the National Park Service. The study also estimates that 11,367 local jobs were supported by park visitor spending.
Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010 was compiled by Dr. Daniel Stynes of the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University. According to this study, the National Park Service received 281 million recreational visits in 2010 and park visitors spent $12.13 billion in local gateway regions.
The study provides a park-by-park and state-by-state breakdowns of each park unit’s visitation, visitor spending, and local jobs supported at NPS units from Alaska to the Virgin Islands.
The top Park Service units in terms of spending generated were Great Smoky Mountains National Park with $818 million; Grand Canyon National Park at $415 million; Yosemite National Park with $354 million, Yellowstone National Park at $334 million, and the Blue Ridge Parkway with $299 million.
“This study clearly demonstrates the economic benefits that communities located near national parks receive by being collocated with these unique national, historic and cultural sites," said Dale Ditmanson, superintendent of Great Smoky.
The spending estimates at each park were derived from a money generation model that begins with a park’s visitation, party size, length of stay, and proportion of local vs. non-local visitors. Those statistics are combined with locally-indexed cost estimates for restaurants, lodging, amusements, locally-purchased fuel and transportation, and retail spending.