Olympic National Park report on economic value based on visitor estimates

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A new report that said Olympic National Park visitors in 2012 pumped $220 million into the economy used a mathematical model based on visitor estimates.

The National Park Service report released Monday said park visitors spent $14.7 billion nationwide in “local gateway regions” in 2012.

Gateway regions are defined as all counties contained within or intersecting a 60-mile radius around each park boundary.

The “2012 National Park Visitor Spending Effects” report does not assess the effect of a nearby park on individual counties, cities or towns.

According to estimates derived from a new “visitor-spending effects model,” the study found that Olympic National Park’s 2,824,908 recreation visits in 2012 resulted in $220 million in spending for the gateway region and 2,708 jobs.

Citing policy, study co-author Christopher Huber, an economist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Fort Collins, Colo., referred inquiries about the study to National Park Service officials in Washington, D.C.

Visits, not visitors

Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes emphasized that the park counts visits, not visitors.

“We never say we have 3 million visitors,” she said.

“We say we have an estimated 3 million visits.”

A family that travels to several destinations in the park is counted multiple times, and Olympic National Park has “various multipliers for various roads,” Maynes said.

“We have traffic counters at each of the entrance roads,” she added.

“People are counted every time they enter the park. We have no way to extrapolate from that exactly how many individual visitors we have.”

The National Park Service estimates that one vehicle entering the park is carrying 2.6 visitors.

In the winter, 20 percent of the motorists traveling around Lake Crescent on U.S. Highway 101 are counted as park visitors.

Forty percent of Lake Crescent drivers are counted as visitors in May, and 80 percent are counted in August.

Nationwide visits

The federal agency estimates there were 282 million recreation visits to 401 sites nationwide in 2012.

A separate report also issued Monday said the partial federal government shutdown last October resulted in a 24 percent drop in Olympic National Park visitation that month compared with a three-year October average between 2010 and 2012.

There were 134,726 visits counted in October 2013, down from the three-year average of 177,431, the analysis showed.

Visitor-related spending fell $3.4 million in Olympic National Park’s gateway region last October, from an estimated $14 million in the three prior Octobers to $10.6 million last October, the study said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 08. 2014 3:47PM
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