Parks have $375M impact on Alabama

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Alabama’s 22 state parks aren’t just nice places to visit. They are also big contributors to the state’s economy, a new study finds.

Visitors to Alabama’s 22 state parks in 2011 spent an estimated $152.4 million, according to the analysis by professors at the University of Alabama. Visitors’ spending along with expenditures by the parks system had a total economic impact of $375 million and supported 5,340 jobs, said Samuel Addy and Ahmad Ijaz of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce.

The State Parks Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources commissioned the study. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Alabama’s parks system. In 2012, state parks recorded more than 4.6 million visits.

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“This study confirms what we who work in the parks system already know – that state parks are valuable tools to promote the state’s economy,” said Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director. “But the study give us real numbers for state parks’ overall economic impact and the many public and private jobs that depend on them.”

The economic impact of state parks compares favorable to that of national parks in the state. A recent report by the National Park Service said visitors to the seven national parks in Alabama spent $26.5 million in 2012 and their spending supported 381 jobs.

Lein points out that state parks must generate through user fees the vast majority of the money that pays for their operations.

“Our slogan is ‘Partners Pay the Way.’ But it’s more than a slogan. We really do rely heavily on our customers – campers, boaters, fishermen, bikers, golfers, etc. – to pay the bills,” Lein said. “We want them to know their dollars count in the parks and in the state’s economy.”

The $375 million economic impact computed by Addy and Ijaz includes $140 million in earnings for thousands of people in various segments of the work force. State parks generate $10.9 million in state and local taxes, according to the report.

Lein went on to say that the report was an initial study that he hoped could be expanded in 2015 to include a survey of park guests to better understand their spending outside of the park.