PHOTO: In Tennessee, the economic impact of last year’s national park visits and the jobs they supported topped $700 million. Photo credit: Nano Anderson/Flickr
They are some of Tennessee’s most pristine areas, and a new study shows national parks are not just great places to spend the day but also major drivers of the local economy. In 2013, said National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson, national parks in Tennessee saw more than 8 million visitors, “and together those visitors spent more than $530 million. That supported 7,634 jobs in the state.” The report also shows that Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains the country’s most popular destination in the National Park System, with more than 9 million combined visitors in the park in Tennessee and North Carolina last year alone. Overall, there were more than 270 million visits to national parks across the nation last year, with related spending at nearly $15 billion and some 240,000 jobs supported. “Of all the jobs that we identified as supported by visitor spending in national parks, the bulk of those far and away – I think it was 197,000 – are in these local communities near national parks,” Olson said. “So, this visitation and the jobs have a big impact on those local communities.” July is “National Park and Recreation Month,” during which people across the United States are encouraged to get out of the house and check in on nature. The report is online at nature.nps.gov.