BOZEMAN, MT – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that America’s national parks are seeing more visitors in 2009 than a year earlier, according to visitation information collected by the National Park Service (NPS). In the first half of 2009, national park units experienced 127,728,898 visits, an increase of nearly 4.5 million visits over the same period in 2008. In June alone, visitation to national parks increased by over 718,000 visits between 2008 to 2009.
“America’s national parks and public lands provide affordable and accessible recreational opportunities from coast to coast,” said SecretarySalazar. “It is great to see so many Americans, including the First Family, take advantage of the incredible natural, cultural, and historic resources that we have here at home. Especially when times are tough, our parks and public lands refuel the spirit and help energize local economies.”
Earlier this year, Secretary Salazar announced that the National Park Service would be offering three “fee free weekends” in 2009. President Obama and his family will be visiting Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park this weekend, which is the third fee-free weekend of the summer. All 391 national parks across the nation will offer free admission to all visitors on August 15-16.
“I am hopeful that the fee free weekends are making it even easier for Americans to enjoy the special places that belong to all of us,” added Secretary Salazar. “I encourage families to visit www.recreation.gov to get great ideas for trips to national parks, wildlife refuges, public lands, and forests near their homes.”
National park units serve as primary economic generators in local communities across America. Each year, park visitors spend $11 billion in local economies, supporting 213,000 jobs in gateway communities, including 54,000 jobs in the hotel and restaurant sectors, 23,000 jobs in retail, and 18,000 in amusements sectors. In addition, the NPS has nearly 600 concessioners at 120 different sites, employing over 25,000 people.
To stimulate additional economic activity and to protect the national parks for future generations, the Department of the Interior is investing $750 million in nearly 800 projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Projects will preserve and protect national icons and historic landscapes, improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use, remediate abandoned mine lands, and provide $15 million in grants to protect and restore buildings at historically black colleges and universities. Additional funding through the Federal Highway Administration will improve park roads for millions of visitors.
To plan a park visit or check out promotions offered this weekend by park partners who operate tours, hotels, restaurants, and gift shops look online at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.