How much is a national park worth? That's difficult to truly answer once you move beyond dollars and cents. But if you're sticking on the economic worth, you could say Hot Springs National Park is worth about $90 million to its surrounding communities.
According to a a Michigan State University study, visitors to Hot Springs National Park in 2010 left behind $89 million in the community, and $84.5 million of that total came from out-of-towners.
The figures include expenditures at motels, hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, restaurants and grocery stores; and on retail and fuel purchases. National Park Service employee and contract labor salaries; and park and contractor purchases of supplies and materials added another $4.99 million to the local economy.
Nationwide, the study estimated $12.13 billion was spent by visitors in communities surrounding National Park Service sites during 2010. Out-of-town visitors to Arkansas' seven Park Service sites spent nearly $138 million, according to the study.
"National parks represent what is best about our country's natural and cultural resources and as such are a magnet for visitors who want to connect to their heritage," said Josie Fernandez, Hot Springs National Park's superintendent. "The economic impact of those visitors vacationing here is the added value that Hot Springs National Park brings to this community."
"We are very proud to contribute to the economic health of this community and will continue to work very hard to achieve the park's full potential as we move forward to lease the remaining vacant bathhouses on Bathhouse Row and vibrant new businesses partners start creating more jobs," the superintendent added. "My goal has always been to have a US flag flying on every building to signal that we are open for business. We are on way to achieving that goal."