By Knoxville Daily Sun Staff
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not only America's most visited national park, it also generates more visitor spending than any of the 397 national parks.
A recently-released National Park Service (NPS) study shows that the Park's 9 million visitors in 2010 spent over $818 million in the gateway towns surrounding the Park. In addition, 11,367 local jobs (full and part-time) were supported by Park visitor spending.
The study was conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University. According to Stynes' study the National Park Service received a total of 281 million recreational visits in 2010 and park visitors spent $12.13 billion in local gateway regions.
In the top five NPS parks generating the most revenue for surrounding towns were Great Smoky Mountains National Park with $818 million, Grand Canyon at $415 million, Yosemite with $354 million, Yellowstone at $334 million, and Blue Ridge Parkway with $299 million.
Smokies Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said, "This study clearly demonstrates the economic benefits that communities located near national parks receive by being collocated with these unique national, historic and cultural sites."
The spending estimates at each park were derived from a money generation model that begins with a park's visitation, party size, length of stay, and proportion of local vs. non-local visitors. Those statistics are combined with locally-indexed cost estimates for restaurants, lodging, amusements, locally-purchased fuel and transportation, and retail spending.