Olympic National Park visitors dropped 24 per cent during October government shutdown

SEATTLE – The average number of visitors to Olympic National Park dropped 24 per cent during the government shutdown in October, according to a National Park Service report released Monday.

The 16-day partial shutdown resulted in about 42,000 fewer visitors to the park on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. There were 134,726 visitors in October 2013, down from the three-year October average of 177,431 between 2010 and 2012, the analysis showed.

That resulted in a loss of about $3.4 million in visitor spending in communities that surround the parks.

A separate National Park Service report released Monday found that national parks across the country served as an economic engine for neighbouring communities near the park, where people buy food, eat at restaurants, get gas or find lodging.

In Washington state, 7.5 million people who visited national park lands spent a total of about $419 million in 2012.

At Olympic National Park, about 2.8 million visitors in 2012 spent $220 million in lodging, food, recreations and other areas. The spending supported about 5,100 jobs in communities surrounding the parks.

Diane Schostak, director of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, said, “Every town around the Peninsula benefits from having this World Heritage park in our midst.”

More than 1 million people visited Mount Rainier National Park and spent nearly $37 million in surrounding areas, while nearly 810,000 visitors to the North Cascades National Park Service Complex resulted in about $33 million in visitor spending in nearby communities.

Nationwide, the government shutdown resulted in a loss of $414 million in visitor spending in surrounding communities and a drop of 7.88 million in visitors.

Not all parks were included in the government shutdown analysis. Olympic was one of 45 parks that experienced a decline greater than $2 million in spending related to national parks.