Acadia boosts economy with $248M in spending by visitors in 2015

Bolstering the case for national parks as an economic engine, a new report shows Acadia’s 2.8 million visitors last year pumped $247.9 million into the regional economy.

The report is sure to be brought up by supporters of a proposed national monument in the Katahdin region, which has been hit hard by paper mill closures, even as some area residents and officials vehemently oppose the idea, with Patten the most recent to reject it, by a 121-53 vote on April 19.

acadia boosts economy

Acadia National Park’s 2.8 million visitors spent $247.9 million in 2015, according to a new National Park Service report. (NPS graphic)

The national parks’ economic impact is the most measured since the park service refined its visitor spending analysis model in 2012. How Acadia boosts economy and other parks around the country affect whole regions is expected to be even greater this year, with more visitors anticipated during the Centennial year for both Acadia and the National Park Service.

“The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, in releasing the report late yesterday, during National Park Week. “Each tax dollar invested in the National Park Service effectively returns $10 to the US economy because of visitor spending that works through local, state and the US economy.”

While the park service hasn’t publicly taken a position on Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby’s proposal to donate what’s now known as Katahdin Woods & Waters Recreation Area for a national monument or national park, the report will certainly add to the broiling controversy.

Acadia boosts economy with millions of dollars, thousands of jobs, report says

The new 62-page report clearly highlights how Acadia boosts economy, and how other national park units in Maine and around the country have brought dollars and jobs to entire regions. It’s sure to be touted by local chambers of commerce and economic development officials in areas that already feature national park units, not just supporters of the proposed national monument outside Baxter State Park.

acadia boosts economy

Spending by Acadia National Park visitors is up. (NPS graphic)

“This is especially significant news to the gateway communities where national parks can be the community’s primary economic engine,” said Jarvis in releasing the report. “While we care for the parks and interpret the stories of these iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes, our neighbors in nearby communities provide our visitors with important services like food and lodging and that means hundreds of thousands of local jobs.”

The report, “2015 National Park Visitor Spending Effects: Economic Contributions to Local Communities, States and the Nation,” was released just days after US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called for a “course correction” for the next 100 years of conservation in America, with more investments in national parks, greater planning for healthy ecosystems and sustainable development, and measures to inspire Americans from all backgrounds to connect with public lands.

acadia boosts economy

A total of 3,900 jobs, mostly in the hotel and restaurant industries, were added to the local economy in 2015 to support Acadia visitors. (NPS graphic)

Jewell, who visited Acadia in 2014, also announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind study to examine the benefits of outdoor recreation on the nation’s economy, during her speech at the National Geographic Society earlier this week. The multi-year study is being conducted by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Among the chief findings that Acadia boosts economy in 2015, according to the national parks report:

  • $247.9 million in visitor spending, mostly on hotels and restaurants, up 12 percent from 2014 and 23 percent from 2012 (the first year of the National Park Service’s refined visitor spending effects analysis model)
  • 3,900 jobs supported, up 11 percent from 2014 and 25.8 percent from 2012

Last year, Acadia saw 2.8 million visitors, the most since 1995, and is expected to experience even greater visitation in 2016, its Centennial year. While that may mean the possibility of more traffic jams, temporary closures of the Cadillac Mountain Road, longer lines and other impacts, it may also mean more dollars and jobs coming into the local economy.

The annual peer-reviewed report, by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the US Geological Survey and Lynn Koontz of the National Park Service, offers nationwide data, along with breakdowns by park units and state, for visitor dollars spent, jobs supported and other statistics.

The report found that across the country, a record-setting 307.2 million visitors to all national parks in 2015 spent $16.9 billion to spur the nation’s economy. In Maine, if you count other national park units along with Acadia, the total boost was $249 million from visitor spending, and 4,200 jobs.

The authors also helped create an interactive tool allowing data to be visualized by park, state and other variables.

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at acadiaonmymind.com. They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores is a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe. Dan is a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass. They are married and live outside Boston.