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National Park Service reports $22M impact from White Sands

LAS CRUCES – More than 447,000 visitors to White Sands National Monument spent an estimated $22 million in the area in 2012, according to a report released this week by the National Park Service.

That $22 million contributed to creating more than 270 jobs in the area, according to the report.

The number of visitors are up from 2011, when nearly 429,000 people visited the monument, according to WSNM.

“White Sands National Monument is the most visited national park site in New Mexico,” spokeswoman Becky Burghart said. “We are a big part of the economic engine for this Tularosa Basin area.”

A ripple effect

People purchase food and souvenirs, stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants when they visit national parks, directly benefiting local economies, officials said.

“But that’s not the end of it,” New Mexico State University economics professor Jim Peach said.

Gift shops must purchase the items they offer for sale. Hotels must buy linens and furniture to serve visitors. Restaurants must hire workers and purchase food – all of which contribute indirectly to local communities, officials said.

“That is really a ripple effect,” Burghart said.

Las Cruces and Alamogordo coordinate their efforts to serve visitors, Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Allen said.

“There is a good deal of interconnectivity between both Las Cruces and Alamogordo, making sure we take advantage as much as possible of the visitors who spend time at the park,” he said.

Nationwide, visitors spent more than $14.7 billion in communities within 60 miles of national parks and created about 243,000 jobs, according to the report.

Half of all spending went to lodging, restaurants and bars, generating more than 90,000 jobs in those industries, the report said.

Federal shutdown

A second report evaluated the impact of the October federal government shutdown on national parks.

Visitation across the country declined by nearly 8 million people during the shutdown, costing local communities more than $410 million in visitor spending, according to the report.

White Sands National Monument does not have an official number on how much revenue it lost during the 16-day shutdown, Burghart said.

But adult visitors pay $3 per day, meaning the more than 21,500 people who would have visited during the shutdown cost the monument as much as $60,000.

New Mexico’s 13 national parks sites are Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Aztec Ruins, Bandelier, Capulin Volcano, El Malpais, El Morro, Fort Union, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Petroglyph, Salinas Pueblo Missions and White Sands national monuments; and Chaco Culture and Pecos national historical parks.

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