State’s national parks boost economy

Mesa Verde alone generated $45M in tourism from 460,237 visitors

At Mesa Verde National Park, George Judstra explains the features of a kiva to a tour group. Enlarge photo

Sam Green/Cortez Journal file photo

At Mesa Verde National Park, George Judstra explains the features of a kiva to a tour group.

Colorado’s 12 national parks, including Mesa Verde in Southwest Colorado, generated $330.5 million from the 5.4 million tourists who visited the parks in 2013, the National Park Service said in a news release Friday.

The spending supported 4,692 jobs in the state.

Tourists visit national parks to have a good time and end up spending a little money along the way, said Sue Masica, director of the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region, in the release.

Mesa Verde created $45 million in economic benefit from tourism last year. The park’s 460,237 visitors in 2013 supported 617 jobs in the area, according to the release.

“Mesa Verde National Park is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Cliff Spencer, the park’s superintendent. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides, and to use the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers.”

National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, he said.

The annual National Park Service report said national park tourism returns $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service.

The peer-reviewed National Park Service visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullainane Thomas, Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz.

According to the economic analysis, 30.3 percent of visitor spending was for lodging, 27.3 percent for food and beverages, 12.1 percent for gas, 10.3 percent for admissions and fees and 10 percent for souvenirs and other expenses.

“This reality makes parks tourism an important factor in Colorado’s economy as well. It’s a result we can all support,” Masica said.

Colorado’s 12 national parks include: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain national parks; Colorado, Dinosaur, Florissant Fossil Beds, Hovenweep and Yucca House national monuments; Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre national historic sites; and Curecanti National Recreation Area.

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