National parks in Marin County brought almost $445 million a year in spending to the area and helped employ more than 3,400 people in 2011, according to a report released Wednesday.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods National Monument generated close to half of the overall $1.2 billion visitors spent in association with national parks in California that year, according to the report.
The report was compiled for the National Park Service to illustrate the economic benefits to local communities that come from both visitors and from employment directly within and associated with the parks.
"It is a truth that the parks bring people here," said Sharon Clayton, assistant innkeeper at the Redwoods Haus Bed and Breakfast in Stinson Beach. "We get a lot of people stay here who are going on to hike, or to see the elephant seals or get oysters. We get not only visitors, but locals who make a trip out of going to the parks. They are a major draw and that helps us and I'm sure it's the same with the other motels here."
The report found that in 2011:
--The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes the Marin Headlands as well as Stinson, Rodeo and Muir beaches, saw 14.5 million visitors who spent $289.7 million in the region in connection with the park. There also were 1,566 jobs associated with the park, providing about $62 million in income to the area.
The Point Reyes National Seashore had 2.1 million visitors that brought $93.3 million to the area. Some 1,105 people were employed in jobs connected to the park, and they received $43 million in income.
--The Muir Woods National Monument had 897,000 visitors who spent $61.7 million. There were 767 jobs associated with Muir Woods that generated $30 million in salaries in the area.
The peer-reviewed analysis was conducted by Michigan State University for the National Park Service.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area officials noted connections to a variety of local employers such as the Discovery Museum, the Marine Mammal Center and the Cavallo Point hotel complex. Near and in the Point Reyes National Seashore a plethora of inns benefit from the beauty of the area maintained and managed by the park.
"We know people come out and support the local economy when they visit," said Cicely Muldoon, superintendent at the Point Reyes National Seashore. "That's not the reason why we are here, but it is an outstanding secondary benefit."
The statistics for 2011 are based on the spending of nearly 279 million national park visitors. Visitors nationwide generated $30.1 billion in economic activity and supported 252,000 jobs. More than one-third of total spending, or $13 billion, went directly into communities within 60 miles of a park.
The report found that nationwide, visitors staying overnight outside the park in motels, hotels, cabins and bed-and-breakfast inns accounted for 54.9 percent of the total spending. About 48 percent of the spending was for lodging and meals, 21.4 percent for gas and local transportation, 9.7 percent for recreation and entertainment, 8.1 percent for groceries and 12.7 percent for other retail purchases.
"Our national parks ... serve as anchors for our nation's economy," said U.S Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "People who visit parks need transportation, places to stay, and meals to eat -- all of which support businesses and provide jobs in local communities."
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