Park visitors spent $248M last year

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Visitors to Acadia spent an estimated $248 million in the park’s “gateway” communities in 2015, according to a report issued last week by the National Park Service (NPS).

However, the estimate of the amount of money spent comes from including communities over a broad swath of Maine in the government’s definition of “local.”

To the National Park Service (NPS), local isn’t just Mount Desert Island or even Hancock County. It includes Rockland, Millinocket, Calais and everywhere in between.

A study conducted by NPS and U.S. Geological Survey economists found that Acadia’s visitors supported 3,878 jobs and, overall, contributed $305 million to the area’s economy. The study looked at the economic impact of spending by visitors to America’s 59 national parks and 351 other NPS units, such as national monuments and national historic sites.

“For the purposes of this analysis, the local gateway region for each park unit is defined as all counties contained within or intersecting a 60-mile radius around each park boundary,” the NPS report explained.

Within a 60-mile radius of Acadia’s boundary on Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula are parts of Penobscot, Waldo and Washington counties. And Isle au Haut, where a section of the park is located, is in Knox County.

Because Acadia’s “gateway region,” for the purposes of the study, includes every square inch of those counties, spending by park visitors on lodging, meals and recreation in such places as Camden, Bangor and Eastport could be counted as contributing to the Acadia-area economy.

Still, the majority of spending by Acadia visitors each year undoubtedly occurs in the Mount Desert Island-Ellsworth area. The thousands of hotel/motel rooms and campsites within 20 miles of the park are just one indication of its enormous economic impact close to home. There also is the multitude of restaurants, shops and commercial tourist attractions that cater not only to overnight visitors, but also to “day trippers” and to cruise ship and tour bus passengers.

According to the NPS report, Acadia has a greater economic impact on its gateway region – however that is defined – than do most other national parks.

“Acadia is consistently one of America’s 10 most visited national parks” – it currently ranks ninth – “and we’re looking forward to an even busier year as we celebrate Acadia’s centennial,” said Superintendent Kevin Schneider.

The NPS’s economic impact study was titled “2015 National Park Visitor Spending Effects.” It showed an estimated $16.9 billion in direct spending by 307.2 million park visitors in all of the parks’ gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was estimated at $32 billion.

According to the study, 31.1 percent of spending by park visitors nationwide was for lodging, 20.2 percent for food and beverages, 11.8 percent for gasoline, 10.2 percent for admissions and fees, and 9.8 percent for souvenirs and other expenses.



Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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