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(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Backpacker camping in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.
Federal shutdown hurt national park visitation
Economic impact » Utah’s national parks attracted 500,000 fewer visitors last year than in 2012.
First Published Jul 22 2014 04:00 pm • Last Updated Jul 22 2014 04:06 pm

Even with the state stepping in to reopen Utah’s national parks during the 16-day federal shutdown last October, visitation to those attractions declined last year.

A new National Park Service report said Utah’s national parks attracted almost 9 million visitors last year, down from Great Basin National Park" target="_blank">9.5 million in 2012.

At a glance

Park Service visits

To download the report, visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.

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The economic impact of those visitors also declined, from $613.7 million in 2012 to $596.5 million last year. And that took a toll on few hundred jobs. Parks-related employment slipped to 9,069 in 2013 from 9,416 a year earlier, the Park Service reported.

"This new report confirms national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy," said Sue Masica, director of the agency’s eight-state Intermountain Region, which includes Utah.

"From Arches and Canyonlands to Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Utah’s national parks attract nearly 9 million visitors a year from across the country and around the world," she added. "Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip or a long family vacation, they come for a great experience — and they end up spending money along the way, too."

Nationally, the report said, 273.6 million park visitors spent $14.6 billion in "gateway" communities within 60 miles of a park. This tourism supported 237,000 jobs.

Most of the money was spent on lodging (30 percent), followed closely by food and beverages (27 percent). Gas and oil purchases contributed 12 percent, while souvenirs, fees and admissions accounted for the rest.

Jobs were heavily weighted toward restaurants and bars (50,000) and lodging (38,000).

In a related study, the Park Service said Great Basin National Park just across Utah’s state line in Nevada attracted 92,893 visitors who spent $4.9 million in communities near the park last year. That spending supported 59 jobs.

While Baker, Nev., was the main beneficiary, merchants in the Delta area also reaped rewards from park visitors coming from the east.

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