National Park Service Report: Tourists Make or Break Local Economies

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Millions of people visit Shenandoah National Park every year for its scenery and outdoor attractions.

A new report from the National Park Service shows the money tourists spend before entering and after leaving the park can make or break local economies.

Tourists visiting Shenandoah National Park spent $72,000,000 in local communities last year. That money supported nearly 900 jobs in places including Waynesboro, Afton, and Rockfish Gap. Business owners say much of their livelihood depends on the park's gates staying open. Businesses surrounding Shenandoah National Park count on visitors to pick up their camping or hiking supplies.

Jack Walker from Rockfish Gap Outfitters said, "Whether it's apparel or bug spray or tick removers or bike helmets or whatever it is, it’s really nice to be right here for them."

A study by U.S. Geological Survey economists reports tourists spend almost $15,000,000 in communities within 60 miles of a national park. Businesses near Shenandoah, like Scotto's Pizzeria in Waynesboro, see the benefit.

Judy Scotto, from Scotto's Pizzeria said, "To have that available pretty much most of the year around, really helps us stay in business as well."

Lodging, restaurants, and gas stations brought in the most money from park visitors last year. Business owners say the park has to stay open to support them year round.

"Last year when the park was closed it kind of hurt. Even though that wasn't really during the peak season it still kind of makes an impact because people can't go play,” said Walker.

“The information that's given out at the parks, letting them know of the area that's around the park that they can access, it really makes a difference to us,” said Scotto.

Keeping the money local for years to come is the number one priority.

"As they come into town we always give them a heads up on good places to go eat local places, so we can all kind of keep it in the local economy,” said Walker.

The report also showed spending at wineries and souvenir shops were two other revenue streams that benefited communities around Shenandoah.

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