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Travel: Government shutdown blamed for big drop in national park visits

Government dysfunction hurts gateway towns near parks

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Visits to National Parks in the U.S. fell slightly in 2013, mainly due to the government shutdown in October, when the National Park Service turned away millions of visitors.

In total, 273.6 million total visits were recorded during the year at the 401 parks, down 9.1 million visits from 2012. The shutdown also resulted in an estimated loss of $414 million in visitor spending in gateway and local communities across the country when comparing October 2013 to a three-year average (October 2010-12).

“The shutdown reduced our visitation for the year by 7.88 million visitors who were turned away during those two weeks,” National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis said in a statement. ” These closures had a real impact on local businesses and communities that rely on the national parks as important drivers for their local economies,” Jarvis said.

Despite the shutdown, some parks reported increases in visitation in 2013, including Gettysburg National Military Park and Vicksburg National Military Park, both of which were buoyed by large crowds and increased interest due to Civil War sesquicentennial events.

Other parks saw reduced numbers due to extended weather-related closures, including Blue Ridge Parkway, which saw visitation fall by 2.5 million due in large part to storm damage and generally cold and wet conditions.  In New York City, the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy forced the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Castle Clinton to remain closed for part of the year.

The National Park Service also released an annual economic report showing that visitors to national parks generated $26.75 billion in economic activity and supported 243,000 jobs in 2012.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area replaced the Blue Ridge Parkway as the most visited site in the National Park System.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park retained its top spot among the 59 sites formally designated as “national park,” with 9.35 million visits in 2013. Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park retained their number two and three spots in the top 10. Glacier National Park in Montana moved into the number 10 spot.

Here are the top 10 most visited places in the National Park System:

  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area – 14,289,121
  • Blue Ridge Parkway – 12,877,368
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 9,354,695
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway – 7,360,392
  • Lincoln Memorial – 6,546,518
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area – 6,344,714
  • Gateway National Recreation Area – 6,191,246
  • Natchez Trace Parkway – 6,012,740
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park – 4,941,367
  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – 4,843,350
Here are the top 10 most visited sites with the “national park” designation:
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 9,354,695
  • Grand Canyon National Park – 4,564,840
  • Yosemite National Park – 3,691,191
  • Yellowstone National Park – 3,188,030
  • Olympic National Park – 3,085,340
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – 2,991,141
  • Zion National Park – 2,807,387
  • Grand Teton NP – 2,688,794
  • Acadia National Park – 2,254,922
  • Glacier National Park – 2,190,374

The complete list of park visitation and other visitor-related statistics is available on the National Park Service’s web site https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/

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  1. […] Government dysfunction hurts gateway towns near parks Staff Report FRISCO — Visits to National Parks in the U.S. fell slightly in 2013, mainly due to the government shutdown in October, when the Na…  […]

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