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National parks boost economies, study finds

North Cascades National Park is one of 15 national park sites in Washington.

Doug Camp
North Cascades National Park is one of 15 national park sites in Washington.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – A new National Park Service report shows that 8.4 million visitors to national parks in Washington state spent more than $562 million in the state during 2017.

That spending resulted in 6,540 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state economy of $677 million.

Washington is home to 15 national park properties, including North Cascades National Park Complex, Olympic and Mount Rainier national parks, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area and others.

“The national parks of Washington state attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Martha Lee, acting regional director for the National Park Service’s Pacific West Region. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way.”

The new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy - returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service - and is a big factor in the state’s economy, she said.

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

The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by more than 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. That spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; 255,900 of those jobs are found in gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion.


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