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National Parks Pump Big Bucks Into Marin Economy

Visitors to Point Reyes and Muir Woods spent more than $150 million in 2011, a new study shows.

They might contribute to weekend traffic gridlock, but National Park tourists in Marin and elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area spend millions of dollars annually and their visits create thousands of jobs, according to a report released last week by the National Park Service.

Non-local National Park visitors in California spent nearly $1.2 billion in 2011, more than any other state or the District of Columbia. National Parks tourism was credited with creating almost 18,000 jobs statewide and $690 million in labor income, according to the report.

More than 17 million people visited the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods National Monument in 2011, the most recent year data is available.

GGNRA, which spans 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, includes Fort Baker, the Marin HeadlandsOakwood ValleyOlema Valley, Point Bonita Lighthouse, Stinson Beach, Tennessee Valley and Muir Beach Overlook in Marin. It accounted for nearly 14.6 million of those visitors. It generated an estimated $290 million in spending in 2011, while Point Reyes generated an estimated $93.3 million and Muir Woods accounted for $61.7 million, according to the report.

There were more than 3,400 jobs created around providing services to GGNRA, Muir Woods and Point Reyes visitors, the report stated.

"The National Park Service is proud to have been entrusted with the care of America’s most treasured places and delighted that the visitors we welcome generate significant contributions to the local, state, and national economy," NPS Regional Director Chris Lehnertz said in a statement.

National Park Economic Impact, 2011 Park Annual Visits Spending: All Visitors Spending: Non-Local Visitors Jobs Labor Income Fort Point National Historical Site 1,338,508 $92.1 million $85.6 million 1,145 $45 million Golden Gate National Recreation Area 14,567,487 $290 million $120 million 1,566 $62 million Muir Woods National Monument 897,131 $61.7 million $57.4 million 767 $52.4 million Pinnacles National Monument 393,219 $8.4 million $6.9 million 357 $5.7 million Point Reyes National Seashore 2,129,116 $93.3 million $84.9 million 1,105 $43.5 million San Fransisco Maritime Historical Park 4,224,897 $95.5 million $70.7 million 855 $33.8 million

Spending directly associated with National Parks happens within a 60-mile radius around each park, known as the local region.

Visitor spending figures were calculated using the Money Generation Model version 2, which uses number of park visits and spending averages from park visitor surveys, as well as local and national economic multipliers. Dollars spent, however, does not include the cost of park fees.

In Marin, locals accounted for about 7 percent of spending related to Muir Woods and 9 percent at Point Reyes.

Here's how much visitors shell out for various types of National Park visits. The figures are system-wide (national).

  • A party of local residents on a day trip to a park: $49.86.
  • Non-locals on a day trip:t $75.02.
  • A group of back-country campers: $59.91 per night.
  • A party of visitors staying in a park lodge: $330.70 per night.
  • Campers staying inside the park: $86.72 per night.
  • Campers staying outside the park: $119.86 per night.

National Park visitors' two biggest costs are food and lodging, accounting for nearly half of what they spend during the trip. Muir Woods doesn't have overnight options, but Point Reyes and GGNRA do. In 2011, there were 40,811 overnight stays in the national seashore and 60,927 in GGNRA, according to the study.

"We attract visitors from all across the U.S. and around the world who come here to experience these parks and then spend time and money enjoying the services provided by our neighboring communities," Lehnertz said.

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