How much is the closure of the National Park System costing the country in daily economic stimulus? According to figures calculated by Climate Progress, right around $76 million.
The organization drew that figure from National Park Service data. Glancing through the data, the big losers are California, with $8.5 million in lost tourism activity daily, the District of Columbia ($5.8 million), Arizona ($4.9 million), North Carolina ($4.4 million), and Utah ($4.4 million).
But sometimes big figures can obscure things. Stating a loss of $8.5 for the whole state of California is one thing, but listening to Eva Soltes, president of the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce, talk about the economic impact the government shutdown is having on the small gateway town of Joshua Tree National Park is quite another.
"This is devastating for us, the shutdown. This is one of our peak seasons, the weather is perfect here in Joshua Tree for climbing, for all kinds of eco-tourism here, and our businesses have just been impacted enormously," she said Friday during a call arranged by the National Parks Conservation Association. "We're generally mom-and-pop operated businesses that live for the peak seasons that we have, which are the fall and the spring. And otherwise, we're all here kind of getting along and getting by.
"There are certain businesses that depend 100 percent on the park. It's the guides that daily are losing $400, $500 a day. This is from troops of Boy Scouts who planned trips for months to come to learn to climb. It's people who are guiding others through the park," said Ms. Soltes.
Overall, she said, the shutdown is costing the community of Joshua Tree about 3,000 visitors a day.
"Our downtown restaurants are absolutely devastated, there's a trickle of business," the chamber president continued. "It's too early to have a percentage, but I would say 75 to 80 percent of the business is off. And it's going to trickle through this community for the entire year. The entire year."
In Ohio, the impact also is very real for those who earn a living from tourists lured to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
"What’s happening in Washington, D.C., is starting to impact small businesses here in Northeast Ohio,” Diane Seskes, a photographer with a gallery in Peninsula, Ohio, who also is president of the local chamber bureau, told the Akron-Beacon Journal. “The question I would ask is: ‘Why are you playing games when you’re supposed to be helping people? Why are you being so foolish?’ ”
The sentiment was much the same in Linden, Virginia, just outside Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive.
"The bad thing about the drive being closed, that's like an American right. It's part of being an American," George McIntyre, owner of The Apple House Restaurant and Gift Shop, told WHAG. "That's a national park and our government takes that away?"
Similar stories are being told across the country, but particulary in the small towns that draw the largest share of their business from fall travelers, the towns just outside entrances to parks such as Glacier in Montana, Capitol Reef in Utah, Olympic on the Washington Peninsula, Big Bend in Texas.
Add it all up, and you've got roughly $76 million a day.