National Park visitors spent more than $58 million in so. W.Va.

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Sandstone Falls, Summers County, New River Gorge Region
Middle falls at Sandstone Falls in New River Gorge National River.

A new report issued by the National Park Service indicates 1,347,957 visitors to national parks in southern West Virginia spent $58,604,300 in nearby communities in 2016.

That spending supported 877 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to local economies of $67,089,900, according to Lizzie Watts, superintendent of the New River Gorge National River, the Gauley River National Recreation Area, and the Bluestone National Scenic River.

“The national parks of southern West Virginia welcomed more than 1.3 million visitors from across the country and around the world last year,” Watts announced in a press release.

“National-park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economies as well.”

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

The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally, including 271,544 jobs in park gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $34.9 billion.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5 percent).

This year, the report authors produced an interactive tool by which users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor-income, value-added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data.

The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national parks in West Virginia and how the National Park Service works with West Virginia communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/WestVirginia.