AZTEC — Last year, Aztec Ruins National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park collectively added more than $3.8 million and 52 jobs to the local economy.
Those numbers come from a new National Park Service report, which says 71,230 visitors explored the two parks in 2013 and spent $3,849,300 in communities near the two areas. That spending supported 52 jobs in the area.
"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," said Larry Turk, superintendent for Aztec Ruins and Chaco, in a press release. "We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities."
The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis of the country's 401 parks was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.
Last year, 273.6 million park visitors spent $14.6 billion in communities within 60 miles of national parks — called "gateway communities" — according to the report. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities. That cumulatively boosted the U.S. economy by $26.5 billion.
Locally, the 52 jobs added were evenly split between Aztec Ruins and Chaco, said Lauren Blacik, head of interpretation at Aztec Ruins.
"It's all over the place, both full-time and part-time or seasonal workers," Blacik said by phone on Wednesday. "The new jobs include new rangers who interact with the public every day, natural resource folks who help remove invasive species, maintenance workers who tend to the grounds and facilities and admin workers who manage the budget. And those are just the jobs generated within the parks."
According to the authors of the report, last year's 16-day federal government shutdown in October accounted for a dip in park visitation nationwide.
"It had a negative impact, and we know that we lost revenue in the park," Blacik said.
April through October is the strongest season for visitors, Blacik said, with the peak coming in June and July.
According to the report, most spending by park visitors was for lodging. That accounted for 30.3 percent of the total spending, with food and beverages at 27.3 percent, followed by fuel at 12.1 percent, admissions and park fees at 10.3 percent and souvenirs and related expenses at 10 percent.