By Pat Jenkins
Mount Rainier National Park and the surrounding area shared in $419 million spent by visitors to national parks in Washington in 2012.
That’s part of the rosy financial numbers in a report by the National Park Service for the latest year that the agency has statistics on its visitor industry. The report also shows that the spending of 7.5 million visitors supported 5,164 jobs in Washington that year.
Numbers specific to Mount Rainier weren’t immediately available. But last year, a Park Service report for 2011 revealed that just over 1 million visitors were recorded at the park that year. They spent $33 million in communities surrounding the park. And that spending helped make more than 1,000 jobs possible – approximately 450 of them locally, not counting the 100 to 110 permanent and 180 to 200 seasonal employees at the park and another 450 to 500 people working in or near the park for commercial concessions companies.
Along with its benefits for local communities, Mount Rainier’s visitor-related commerce accounts for 11 percent of the total spending on travel within Pierce County, according to state tourism officials.
“The national parks of Washington attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Chris Lehnertz, regional director for the Park Service. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience and end up spending a little money along the way.”
Lehnertz said the 2012 report reaffirms that national park tourism is a significant driver of the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and “a big factor in Washington state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”
In addition to Mount Rainier, the national parks or National Park Service-operated visitor destiinations inWashington include Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, San Juan Island National Historical Park, and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, as well as the main unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and parts of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Nez Perce National Historical Park, and Minidoka National Historic Site.