By Liam Jackson and Andrea Messer, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – Pennsylvania state parks draw an estimated 33.6 million visitors who spend more than $738 million annually, according to a recent economic impact report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The parks in total contribute $818 million in sales and more than 10,000 jobs within the Commonwealth.
These economic contributions are not generated just by Pennsylvanians. Out-of-state visitor spending accounted for $167 million in sales. This is money “directly being brought into the Commonwealth,” said Andrew Mowen, associate professor of recreation, park, and tourism management at Penn State, who led the research. Mowen and his colleagues analyzed data from 112 of Pennsylvania’s 117 state parks using the Money Generation Model originally developed by the National Park Service that estimates visitor spending and its impacts on local and state economies.
The researchers also estimated that for every public dollar invested in Pennsylvania state parks in 2008, $7.62 of value-added income was returned to the Commonwealth. When projecting economic returns based on increased park visitation in 2009, this return on investment was even higher.
“State parks are not just a cost without a return to the Commonwealth,” says Mowen. “They contribute to the local and state economy, and are a green form of business that is sustainable over time.”
The report, says Mowen, highlights how “Pennsylvania’s state parks provide a benefit not only to those who use state parks, but to local businesses and communities who benefit economically from their nearby state parks. Pennsylvania state parks are also good value for visitors because it is one of only a few state park systems that does not charge an entrance fee.”
Other researchers involved with the study included Daniel J. Stynes, professor emeritus, Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Michigan State University, and researchers from Penn State’s Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management: Alan Graefe, associate professor; Deborah Kerstetter, professor; and Nate Trauntvein, graduate student.
The full report is available online.