By Tom Hallberg
Jackson Hole Daily
Via Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — A new report from the National Park Service shows that Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are two of the biggest economic generators in the National Park Service system and have a large impact on their gateway communities.
According to the report, in 2018, Teton park, which had 3.5 million visitors who spent $629 million, supported 8,620 jobs and created $792 million in total economic benefit. Yellowstone had 4.1 million visitors who spent $513 million, supporting 7,090 jobs and generating $647 million in economic output. The report didn’t indicate how many of the jobs were part time or full time.
Both rank in the top 10 economic drivers in the Park Service, with Teton park sitting at fifth and Yellowstone at seventh.
“Grand Teton National Park is an iconic national park and hosts visitors from across the country and world,” Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a press release.
Economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione, of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Lynne Koontz, of the Park Service, conducted the peer-reviewed analysis. The more than 318 million national park visitors spent $20.2 billion nationwide, supporting 329,000 jobs and pumping $40.1 billion into the U.S. economy.
Gateway communities are defined as those within 60 miles of a national park. Many, like Jackson or Cody, are rural and see an economic boost from the millions of tourists. However, the economic uptick can come with costs as the towns become destinations.
“Travelers to gateway communities are changing,” a 2005 University of Pennsylvania study on historic preservation says. “Tourists are currently seeking out these towns for their unique historic characteristics and distinctive sense of place.”
The study used Mesa Verde National Park and the surrounding towns — Cortex, Mancos and Durango, Colorado — as a case study for other gateway communities. It found that rapid growth resulted from increased visitation, jobs and economic activity, and threatened to degrade parts of the towns’ history, particularly their historic structures and sense of place.
“Ironically, what attracted many newcomers to the community is what is at risk of being lost,” the study says.
Increased tourism can be inferred from the sheer amount of money spent by visitors to Teton park, which jumped from $463 million in 2013 to $629 million in 2018, a 36% bump in five years. But the more than 8,000 jobs the park generated are a large part of sustaining the Jackson economy.
“We appreciate the support of all our park partners, neighbors and local communities,” Noojibail said in the release.
The full report can be found at NPS.gov/subjects/