Olympic National Park visitors spent an estimated $262 million in surrounding communities on the North Olympic Peninsula last year, supporting some 2,970 local jobs and pumping about $357 million into the economy, the National Park Service reported last week.
According to the 2018 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report, more than 318 million visitors spent a combined $20.2 billion in communities within 60 miles of a park in the national system.
That spending supported 268,000 jobs nationwide, officials said.
“This report emphasizes the tremendous impact the national parks have on our nation’s economy and underscores the need to fulfill President Trump’s plan to rebuild park infrastructure,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a Thursday press release.
“With 419 sites, and at least one in every state, our national parks continue to provide visitors, both local and destination, with in numerous recreational, inspirational and world-class experiences.”
Olympic National Park had an estimated 3.1 million recreation visits in 2018, down from a six-year high of 3.4 million in 2017.
The park counts visitors at entrance gates, visitor centers and with traffic counters on U.S. Highway 101 at Lake Crescent using a 25-year-old formula based on the time of year.
For example, 80 percent of the vehicles that pass Lake Crescent in August are considered to be entering the park for recreational use, while 20 percent of the vehicles that round the lake in the winter are counted in the visitation statistics.
Each vehicle counted in the park’s visitation statistics is multiplied by 2.6 to estimate the number of Olympic National Park guests. The formula has been in place since 1994, park spokeswoman Penny Wagner has said.
The 2018 analysis said that Olympic National Park visitors spent $262 million in gateway communities 60 miles from the park, down from $279 million in 2017 and $287 million in 2016.
By comparison, Mount Rainier National Park’s 1.5 million visitors spent an estimated $54.9 million last year. North Cascades National Park’s 30,100 visitors spent $1.4 million in 2018, according to the annual report.
Of the $262 million in reported visitor spending, the sectors receiving the most benefit from Olympic National Park were hotels ($84 million), restaurants ($48.7 million) and gas stations ($27.7 million), the park service said.
Other sectors benefiting from the park being within 60 miles were retail ($26.5 million), recreation ($24.6 million), transportation ($24.2 million), groceries ($17.6 million) and camping ($8.4 million), the NPS statistics show.
According to the analysis, Olympic National Park visitors supported 2,970 jobs in 2018, including 769 jobs defined as “secondary effects.”
The park supported 624 restaurant jobs, 574 hotel jobs, 376 recreation industry jobs and 231 retail jobs in 2018, NPS officials said.
Federal officials said Olympic National Park visitor spending resulted in $127 million in labor income, $235 million in value added and $357 million in economic output.
Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director, and Arlene Alen, The Chamber of Jefferson County executive director, were not available for comment Friday afternoon.
Olympic National Park deputy superintendent Lee Taylor also could not be reached for comment.
“National parks with their iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes represent the heart and soul of America,” National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith in a press release.
“They are also a vital part of our nation’s economy, especially for park gateway communities where millions of visitors each year find a place to sleep and eat, hire outfitters and guides and make use of other local services that help drive a vibrant tourism and outdoor recreation industry.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].