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Matt Gade, Deseret News
Big Bend at Zion National Park

SALT LAKE CITY — Gateway communities at Utah's national parks and monuments reap the economic benefits of visitors who spent $596 million last year in lodging, food, trinkets and admission fees.

A new report shows that overall, 9 million visitors helped to support 9,070 jobs that fueled $287 million in labor income for the Beehive State.

The report, released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service, examined economic trends associated with visits to national parks and monuments across the country.

It notes that the National Park System received 273 million visitors in 2013 who spent $14.6 billion in local gateway communities, defined as those communities within 60 miles of a park. The spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in the gateway communities. The peer-reviewed analysis shows there was a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

In Utah, Zion National Park had visitation that generated $147 million for local communities such as Springdale, and an estimated 1,760 jobs are attributable to the park's nexus with the small community.

Cindy Purcell, acting superintendent at Zion National Park, said Zion has become a premier destination noted for its wide-ranging economic impacts.

"Zion National Park is truly a world destination. It has become a hub where people begin their vacations then branch out to experience the many other area attractions,” said Purcell. “Local communities help enhance the visitor experience by providing restaurant, lodging and guiding services. For every $1 invested in the National Park Service, visitor spending creates a return rate of $10.”

The report highlights the significance even small parks can have.

At Pipe Spring National Monument, located between Zion and Grand Canyon national parks, visitors spent $2.8 million in 2013 and helped support 39 local jobs, according to the report.

The monument, which sports a trio of sandstone buildings dating back as far as 1863, is 45 miles east of Hurricane and 15 miles west of Fredonia, Arizona.

The analysis tracked visitor spending by the nature of the stay — such as local day trips, if people camped at the park or stayed in a lodge or if they stayed in motels outside the park.

The 2013 report shows that most visitor spending was for lodging — 30 percent of expenditures — followed by food and beverages at 27 percent and fuel at 12 percent.

Spending patterns detailed in the report show the park system's vulnerability to extreme weather-related events such as drought, wildfires and storms.

Hurricane Sandy, which struck in October of 2012, nevertheless continued to cause problems in 2013 for nearly 70 parks that sustained damage. Castle Clinton and the Statue of Liberty national monuments, for example, remained closed until July 4, 2013.

The report also acknowledged the impacts of the government shutdown in 2013, which led to a systemwide decline in visitation of more than 6.4 million visitors and a loss in spending of $414 million.

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