Yosemite area lost $6.7 million during U.S. government shutdown

Separate report touts parks' boost to neighboring communities

The Fresno BeeMarch 3, 2014 

The federal government shutdown last October cost communities near Yosemite National Park an estimated $6.7 million in reduced spending by visitors, according to a new report.

The report, issued Monday by the U.S. Interior Department, also said that Sequoia National Park-related visitor spending declined $2.9 million.

Government shutdowns -- such as the 16-day hiatus in October -- harm local economies near the parks because they are dependent on visitor revenues, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.

How dependent? A separate report issued Monday by Interior said that the four national parks in Central California created more than a half-billion dollars in local spending in 2012, the most recent year studied.

Nationally, the October shutdown cost communities that are gateways to national parks $414 million in spending by visitors due to about 8 million fewer visits, the Interior Department said.

Five states, including California and Arizona, lost more than $20 million during the shutdown, the Interior Department said.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said the timing of the shutdown was especially bad for businesses because "October is a very important month for park visitation."

The local impact was felt by Steve Eicholtz, owner of The Bed of Roses bed-and-breakfast inn near Coarsegold.

"We probably have 90% of our business being Yosemite related," Eicholtz said. "When the National Park Service was shut down, that was a gigantic issue in Europe and Asia in terms of bookings."

In Three Rivers, just outside Sequoia National Park, the shutdown was especially felt by larger motels and hotels, said Leah Launey, a director of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce.

"They had to lay off workers," she said. "The major business in Three Rivers is tourism. They come to see Sequoia National Park. The economy of Three Rivers depends on Sequoia National Park."

Another report issued Monday -- "2012 National Parks Visitor Spending Effects" -- shows the powerful influence a park can have on a local economy. It breaks outs spending and jobs for every national park.

In 2012, the national parks had 282 million visitors and generated $26.75 billion in economic activity and supported 243,000 jobs in restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and businesses such as outfitters, the report states.

For every dollar spent by the National Park Service, $10 of economic activity is generated, Jewell said in a telephone news conference with reporters.

"That's a good return" on investment, she said.

Of the jobs created, more than 200,000 were in gateway communities, defined as within 60 miles of a park, according to the report.

Locally, the spending broke down this way:

• Yosemite National Park had 3.85 million visits and $378 million in visitor spending.

• Sequoia National Park had 1.1 million visits and $77 million spent.

• Kings Canyon National Park had 591,033 visits and $45.9 million spent.

• Pinnacles National Park, just west of the San Joaquin Valley, had 188,560 visits and $11.5 million spent.

"We are very aware of the economic impact of the traveler on the local economy," said Al Smith, president and CEO of the Greater Fresno Chamber of Commerce. "Many times, it gets overlooked."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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