A vast network of infrastructure goes into supporting more than seven billion outdoor recreational outings. Roads, bridges, trails, campsites, boat ramps, and other facilities help facilitate interaction with our public lands and access to the outdoors. The National Park Service (NPS) alone manages more than 75,000 constructed assets. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) ranks among the top federal providers of outdoor recreation, hosting approximately 370 million visitors annually at 403 lake and river projects in 43 states. NPS welcomed 307.2 million visitors in 2015 and national forests and grasslands hosted 161 million visits in 2012. Our national wildlife refuges accommodated nearly 47 million visitors in 2014. All of these parks require roads, trails, parking areas, and other facilities to make them accessible. Maintenance and investment keep the infrastructure safe and capable of meeting the demand of a growing population.
America’s parks and public lands also support numerous industries within our economy – lodging, restaurants and bars, grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, and other retailers. In 2015 NPS visitors spent $16.9 billion in communities within 60 miles of a park. Their spending supported 295,000 jobs that produced a payroll of $11.1 billion. U.S. Forest Service lands support more than 205,000 jobs associated with recreation and wildlife visitor use. Their visitors contribute $11 billion to the economies of mostly rural, gateway communities each year.
Capital spending by local and regional public park agencies in the U.S. generated nearly $59.7 billion in economic activity and supported 340,000 jobs in 2013. The more than 6,600 state park sites constitute less than a quarter of national acreage, but see two and a half times as many visitors on an annual basis—nearly 759 million visits in 2015. The average local park and recreation agency provides 9.5 acres of park land for every 1,000 residents. 29% of American households reported using their local park frequently in 2015 and 47% reported frequenting occasionally.
These lands, historical parks and cultural sites, monuments, battlefields, and recreational areas play other critical roles in American life. National forests and grasslands capture and filter drinking water for 180 million people in over 68,000 communities. It’s estimated that the value of water flowing from U.S. Forest Service lands is $7.2 billion annually. Major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, and Atlanta receive a significant portion of their water supply from national forests.Back to Public Parks