Oregon's state parks injected $1B into economy, study says

A study by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has found that visitors to the state's parks contributed more than $1 billion to the economy and supported 16,000 jobs in 2016.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A study by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has found that visitors to the state's parks contributed more than $1 billion to the economy and supported 16,000 jobs in 2016.

The report released this week measures how communities near state parks benefit from that presence.

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Employees earned a combined salary of $550 million and helped welcome more than 54 million visitors. The analysis also found that each dollar invested in the parks system generates $30.50 in related economic activity.

State parks officials commissioned economist Eric White, a research social scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, to prepare the report at a cost of $45,697 over a six-year period. White analyzed survey responses from more than 18,000 visitors to 84 park properties. The agency conducted the surveys from 2011-2016.

"We wanted to measure the economic benefits state parks bring to the state," said state parks and recreation Director Lisa Sumption. "The findings are clear: When state parks succeed, so do Oregon communities. We want to keep it that way, so we continue to look at what we can do to improve visitors' experiences."

The report provided information by region and by park.

Coastal parks had the greatest number of visits and slightly higher levels of average spending, accounting for about half of the total statewide spending.

Silver Falls State Park provided the largest economic boost, with 1.4 million visits contributing $58.4 million to the local economy. Fort Stevens State Park followed with $40.1 million, and Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site with $34.8 million.

White also found that visitors spend an average of $25 for day trips within 30 miles (48 kilometers) from home to $390 for an overnight camping trip more than 30 miles from home. More than half of visitor spending across all state parks — $619 million — was generated by visitors who traveled more than 30 miles from home and who stayed overnight in or near the park.

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