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National park visitors spend $1.4 million in 2013

Arkansas’ national parks welcomed 2.78 million visitors who spent $1.4 million in the state in 2013, the National Park Service said in a report released Friday.

The 2013 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report tracks national park visits across the country and estimates visitors’ spending in communities with 60 miles of the parks, as well as the impact on jobs.

Visitors to national parks in Arkansas supported 2,000 jobs last year, the report estimates.

“This new report confirms that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service,” Patricia Trapp, acting director of the National Park Service’s Midwest Region, which includes Arkansas, stated in a news release. “This reality makes parks tourism an important factor in the Arkansas economy as well.”

National parks across the country received 273.6 million visitors who spent $14.6 billion in communities within 60 miles of the parks in 2013, according to the peer-reviewed report by researchers with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report estimates that the spending supported about 237,000 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

Most spending by park visitors nationwide was for lodging, 30.3 percent; food and beverages, 27.3 percent; gas and oil, 12.1 percent; admissions and fees, 10.3 percent; and souvenirs and other expenses, 10 percent, according to the report.

Researchers said the largest job categories supported by the spending were restaurants and bars, 50,000; and lodging, 38,000.

Arkansas’ national parks are Pea Ridge National Military Park, Fort Smith National Historic Site, Hot Springs National Park, Buffalo National River, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Arkansas Post National Memorial and President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site.

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