Tenn. State Park Visitors Have $1.5B Impact
State parks all over Tennessee are boosting local economies by bringing traffic to the cities that surround them, according to officials, backed by state statistics.
Even towns that aren't very commercial see an increase in life quality for residents because of the park, which indirectly leads to a better economy, park advocates argue.
Results from a study by the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee (UT) examining park attendance for the 2008-09 year showed that every dollar allocated in the state parks budget (about $40 million a year) triggered an additional $37 in economic impact in 2008, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Dollars spent by visitors had an even bigger impact.
Nearly 17 million people visited state parks in 2008. They generated $1.5 billion in business and supported more than 18,600 jobs that year.
The UT study showed that thousands of Tennesseans have jobs because of park-generated economic activity.
People visiting state parks directly spent $725 million on goods and services from various businesses around the state in 2008, according to the study.
In turn, the visited businesses had to spend more on supplies to keep up with demand. When their spending was factored in, the study showed parks had a total industry output of $1.5 billion.
Another important contribution of state parks is an increase in property value in areas surrounding state parks.
Kathleen Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, said parks create an interest in the areas around them, and businesses race to open near them for the influx of park-visiting customers.
The UT study concluded that state parks increase the state's appeal to outside industries and retirees looking to live in a place with natural amenities.
"People come to Tennessee because it is green and beautiful. They don't come for commercial attractions," Williams said. "It's worth the investment."