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NPS superintendent: Park sites add economic advantage

 

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area Superintendent Dan Foster tells chamber members about the economic benefits of being near an NPS site. - Scott Hunter photo

Local areas and local businesses can tap into a powerful, internationally recognized brand that brings to mind "camping," chamber of commerce members were told recently, and it's free.

The emblem for the National Park Service brings that idea to mind because the agency has set the trend globally, said Dan Foster, superintendent of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

"People who see that emblem anywhere in the world know that you can go to that location and expect a degree of excellence," Foster said.

So much so that organizations that recruit high-tech and other high-paying industries use the allure of the NPS sites and other protected public lands as a plus that adds some sheen to their proposals. Those sites support faster job growth, he said.

Foster said rural "gateway communities" close to NPS lands, such as Lake Roosevelt, gain economic advantage from that proximity.

Citing a 2003-2014 study, Foster said that in 2014, the NPS received 292 million recreation visits, and visitors spent $15.7 million in gateway communities and added 277,000 jobs and $10.3 billion in labor income.

According to the study, the average visitor spends $134 locally. In a non-local day trip, a visitor spends $88.

Half the money is spent for lodging, foods, and bars.

The NPS logo, available at findyourpark.com, is freely available for local businesses to add to their websites.

Day trips are about 50 percent of the visitation for any national park.

The NPS estimates that visitors to Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area spent $50 million in 2014 in local communities.

"That's a pretty significant amount of money," he said. "That's money that chambers, that local communities can tap into, and it's done by developing the local economy."

The NPS is pushing its Find Your Park campaign ahead of its coming centennial in 2016. A new logo for that campaign is freely available for local businesses to add to their websites, he said.

That would also help the NPS. About half of the people who visit Lake Roosevelt don't know that it's a National Park Service site, Foster said.

"We are encouraging everybody to get up, get out, and find your own national park; find a place that you love," he said.

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