Virginia makes bank from national parks
More than 22 million people — roughly the entire population of Florida — visited Virginia State Parks in 2021 and spent a record $1.3 billion in the surrounding communities, according to a new report from the National Parks Service.
Driving the news: The pandemic pushed people outdoors and in search of virus-free fun, which translated into record visitation and revenue for the state’s national parks and local economies that depend on them.
Of note: Only three other states — California, North Carolina and Utah — saw a bigger economic boon from their national parks than the Old Dominion last year.
By the numbers: Virginia’s national parks support an estimated 18,000 jobs and contribute a total of $1.9 billion to the Virginia economy, according to the report.
- The largest share of park spending was on lodging, at $463 million, followed by restaurants ($295 million) and gas ($148 million).
Zoom in: The Blue Ridge Parkway, shared with North Carolina, is the most visited national park in the country, according to the report, and also in Virginia.
- Blue Ridge Parkway saw 15.9 million visitors, who spent $1.3 billion, in 2021.
- Colonial National Historical Park (Jamestown and Yorktown) followed, seeing 3.1 million visitors, who spent $337 million last year.
- And Assateague Island National Seashore (the ponies!) welcomed 2.7 million park visitors.
The intrigue: The biggest national park locally, Richmond National Battlefield Park (“the center of Confederate manufacturing”), actually saw a drop in visitor spending last year, down to $9.9 million — the lowest level since 2013.
💭 Karri’s thought bubble: All this positive visitor spending is all well and good, but I long for those early pandemic national park stories of people behaving like dum-dums and having to be helicoptered out of parks thanks to poor shoe choices.
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