The Cuyahoga Valley National Park's 33,000 acres along the Cuyahoga River stretching between Cleveland and Akron are not just pretty to gaze at; it turns out, they also are a driver of the region's economy.
The National Park Service released a report Friday on the park's impact to Northeast Ohio that showed some 2,096,053 visitors ventured into the valley in 2018.
These same visitors spent an estimated $36.8 million in the communities near and inside of the park.
This translates to 541 jobs in the region related to park visitors and related tourism.
The National Park Service pegs the total economic impact — when you combine the related jobs and visitor spending — at $53.3 million to the region's economy.
"Cuyahoga Valley National Park welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world," Superintendent Craig Kenkel said. "We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well.
"We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities."
The park is part of a pilot project with 18 other National Parks to increase the accuracy of visitor spending and the ways that data is collected.
The overall results show a 41 percent decrease in visitor spending.
But park officials are quick to point out that they do not believe visitor spending is actually on the decline but rather the new method of tabulating the dollars is a more accurate calculation than in the past.
The report is the result of work by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.
The report shows $20.2 billion of direct spending by more than 318 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. The parks created 329,000 jobs nationally with an economic impact of $40.1 billion nationally.
The biggest driver of visitor spending was lodging, nationally tallying some $6.8 billion in 2018.
Food was second with $4 billion spent in restaurants and bars and another $1.4 billion in grocery and convenience stores.
Lodging accounted for more than 58,000 jobs and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants.
To view the interactive report online, visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm.
Craig Webb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.