State parks bolster state and local economies

Study after study shows that parks contribute to social, physical and psychological health and quality of life. In 2015, the State Parks Commission took steps to find out specifics about the economic benefits of state parks and hired Earth Economics to analyze the data. The result is a study released late last year confirming that visits to Washington state parks each year contribute $1.4 billion in total estimated economic contribution, including $95 million in state and local taxes and $64 million to the state’s General Fund.

The benefits are even greater to rural communities and business, as city dwellers venture to outlying areas for recreation. People buy hiking shoes, outdoor clothing, tents, camp stoves and much more, as they gear up for outdoor recreation. When they venture out, they purchase gas, food and supplies, at businesses large and small near their destinations. Outdoor recreation fees, taxes and other charges also become revenue for government services.

The study also confirmed that state park visits generate about 14,000 jobs each year in retail, food service and fuel-related service sectors and between $500 million and $1.2 billion in quality-of-life elements such as aesthetic value, wildlife habitat. Parks also contribute to healthy aquifers, which sustain local drinking water systems.

State parks are central to the economic well-being of our state, and the Commission continues to advocate for a well-funded park system to keep citizens happy and healthy—and the economy primed for success.

For more information, check out the study—Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation at Washington State Parks. Also, the 2014-2019 State Parks Strategic Plan outlines how the agency works to meet public need, continue economic contributions and meet its current and long-term mission.