Infrastructure & Environment

Parks Shutdown Cost Local Economies $400 Million

March 4, 2014
 

When federal officials closed national parks during last year’s government shutdown, it meant nearly 8 million fewer visits to the parks and cost local communities more than $400 million in economic activity, the National Park Service said Monday.

The parks garnered an outsized amount of attention during the shutdown as park officials closed off open-air sites and barricaded parking lots, particularly around the nation’s capital. Critics accused the parks of making the 16-day shutdown more painful than it needed to be, and a handful of states even paid to reopen their biggest park sites early.

Nearly five months later, those states are still waiting for reimbursement from the federal government.

Grand Canyon National Park, which Arizona paid to have reopened a few days before the shutdown ended, likely lost more than 160,000 visitors and the surrounding area lost $17 million in visitor spending, the park service said in a report that compared October 2013 to the previous three years.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park reported the biggest drop, with nearly 330,000 fewer visitors than usual in October and a drop of $25.6 million in spending.

The National Park Service and Interior Department, which oversees the agency, said their report should show Congress and the public how important their operations are to local economies.

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