National parks contribute $182M to local economies

MUNISING – A new National Park Service report shows 2.2 million people visited Michigan’s four national park units in 2012, spending a total of $181.7 million in the towns nearby, which helped support a total of 3,221 jobs in those local areas.

The new report analyzing the effects of tourism is titled “2012 National Park Visitor Spending Effects: Economic Contributions to Local Communities, States and the Nation.”

“National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well,” said Mike Pflaum, superintendent at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, in a news release. “We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

The report reviewed the National Park Service’s 141 units across the country, including Isle Royale National Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the River Raisin National Battlefield downstate.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the Park Service.

Across the country, the report showed $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, with a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.75 billion.

In annual visitation to Michigan’s four parks, Sleeping Bear Dunes had the highest with 1,531,560 visitors; followed by Pictured Rocks at 593,587, River Raisin at 50,667 and Isle Royale with 16,663.

In the number of jobs supported by park tourism, Sleeping Bear Dunes again topped the four Michigan parks with 2,818; followed by Pictured Rocks with 312; Isle Royale at 50 and River Raisin with 41.

Visitor spending at Sleeping Bear Dunes totaled $151.8 million in 2012; followed by 23.7 million at Pictured Rocks; $2.7 million at River Raisin and $2.5 million at Isle Royale.

The amount spent per visitor averaged $82.60 for the four parks. Isle Royale had the highest average per visitor spending at $208.67; followed by Sleeping Bear Dunes at $99.10; $53.81 at River Raisin and $39.96 at Pictured Rocks.

Nationally, spending by visitors in gateway communities near national parks included 30 percent on hotels, motels and bed and breakfast outlets; 20 percent in restaurants and bars; 12 percent on gas and oil; 10 percent for admission and fees; 10 percent on souvenirs and other expenses; 7 percent on local transportation and 2 percent on camping fees.

Across the country, the National Park System units cover a total of more than 84 million acres. The Park Service has been measuring and reporting visitor spending and economic effects for the past 24 years.

To download the report, please visit: