Editorial: Mountains’ majesty

Study proves what we knew: Smokies mean a lot to our economy
Mar. 03, 2013 @ 11:38 PM

We didn’t need a study to tell us that our national park has a tremendous economic impact on the area. Still, it’s nice to quantify what we already knew in a general, broader sense.

A National Park Service report for 2011 that was released last week shows that the 9 million visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park spent $818 million in communities surrounding the park. This spending supported 11,732 jobs in the local area.

“Visitors from across the U.S. come to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to experience the unique natural and historic attractions, which has a tremendous economic impact on eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and especially the park’s gateway communities,” said Smokies Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.

The information on the Smokies is part of a spending analysis of visitors across the country conducted by Michigan State University for the National Park Service. Most visitor spending supports jobs in lodging, food, and beverage service (63 percent) followed by recreation and entertainment (17 percent), other retail (11 percent), transportation and fuel (7 percent) and wholesale and manufacturing (2 percent).

The federal budget cuts imposed starting Friday threaten that economic impact, primarily because people whose salaries are cut or jobs eliminated will not be wanting to travel much, even to a park where almost everything is free. If visitation shrinks, or if people decide not to visit Sevier County for our other attractions, then the trickle-down effect will be felt.

In the meantime let’s appreciate the study’s fundings and continue to show appreciation for the most visited national park in all of America.