Hyde Park buoyed by national park visitors

It pays to have a national park in your backyard.

According to a recent U.S. government report, the three national historic sites in Hyde Park hosted 613,902 total recreational visits in 2012, with $33,034,900 in visitor spending.

And the number of “supported” jobs that resulted from visitor spending (on lodging, food and transportation and other purchases) was 398. (This job number is not to be confused with the number of employees employed at any particular park.)

The report, “2012 National Park Visitor Spending Effects,” was released by the National Parks Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior and supports the conclusion that visitor spending means money and jobs for the communities in which the parks are situated.

Town Supervisor Aileen Rohr described the impact of visitor spending as “indirect,” noting that visitors to the FDR home and library, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill site and the Vanderbilt Mansion support local commercial establishments like restaurants and B&Bs and help create jobs.

“Anecdotally, I know many Hyde Park residents who work at one of the three parks,” she told the Observer. In fact, Rohr added, Hyde Park historian Carol Kohan was employed by the National Park Service for 38 years before taking the town job in February.

On the other side of the balance sheet, the three national parks do not pay local real estate taxes. Just over 3 percent of Hyde Park, including the three parks, is owned by the federal government and is therefore tax-exempt, Rohr said.

Mitigating this lack of revenue is the fact that municipal services for those areas tend to be light. Rohr pointed out that the three parks have their own security services and they are located on state roads, all of which lessens the cost to Hyde Park for police and road maintenance.

But not everything can be measured in dollars and cents. Rohr explained that the three parks provide recreational and cultural opportunities without increasing local or state taxes. Vanderbilt Mansion, for instance, is the venue for outdoor concerts.

Most importantly, Rohr noted, the three parks “help to make Hyde Park an attractive place to live.”

The government report noted that more than 200,000 of the jobs supported by national parks in 2012 were in local neighboring communities. The figures in the report are based on spending by nearly 283 million visitors in communities near all the national parks. Although the report is based on 2012 data, it has only been recently released. Jeffrey Olson, a spokesperson for the National Parks Service, noted that the agencies would be issuing a new report in June of this year.

With respect to jobs “supported” by visitor spending at the three parks, Olson explained that these jobs were situated in the “local gateway region,” which is defined as the communities within a 60-mile radius of a national park site.

Olson also pointed out another important statistic provided by the report: “output, ” which is defined as the sum of all sales — business to business, and business to consumer. Aggregate output for the region of the Hyde Park sites was $40,423,000.

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