Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon (Magdalena Wegrzyn - The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Visitors spent more than $4.6 million while visiting two local national parks, according to a recent federal report.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument had 83,788 visitors and supported 65 jobs, according to the 2012 National Park Visitor Spending Effects Report that was released in late February.

The study took into account money spent within a 60-mile radius of the national parks at places like hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other service-based businesses.

Lauren Blacik, chief of interpretation at Aztec Ruins and spokeswoman for both parks in the report, said local communities help national parks attract visitors by providing amenities.

Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon (Magdalena Wegrzyn - The Daily Times)

"We are becoming aware of how they are contributing to the success of the park," she said.

Aztec Ruins had nearly 45,000 visitors who spent about $2.4 million, while Chaco Culture had about 39,000 visitors who spent about $2.25 million in 2012, according to the report.

Blacik said one of the challenges the parks have is drawing visitors with marketing.

She said since the federal government doesn't allow programs to spend money on marketing, they have formed partnerships with local organizations.

"We often find that people wish they had planned more time in the Four Corners once they get here and discover all the possibilities," said Wilann Thomas, director of tourism for the City of Aztec.

Blacik added that the parks manage a website and Facebook page to help spur interest.

Larry Turk, superintendent for both parks, said the parks have an economic impact on the local and national economies.

"National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy — returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service — and it's a big factor in our local economy as well," Turk said in a release. Turk was away at a training and unavailable for comment for this story.

Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon (Magdalena Wegrzyn - The Daily Times)

Nationwide, in 2012, the National Park System received more than 282 million visitors who spent about $14.7 billion in local regions. The spending supported about 243,000 jobs, according to the report.

Mesa Verde National Park had about 488,000 total visitors who spent $46.7 million. The spending helped support 645 jobs in the area.

Phone calls to Mesa Verde seeking comment were not returned by Monday evening.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638. and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.