Tourists take photos of the Statue of Liberty while riding a tour boat in New York Harbor, but can't visit the statue because of the government shutdown. (AP)
Visitors spend about $76 million a day in communities near national parks, the National Park Service estimated before the federal government partially closed down because of failed budget talks between Congress and President Obama.
From the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty, the closing of 401 national parks isn't just disappointing campers, school children and wedding parties. Local communities and states are losing millions of dollars in lost tourism and tax revenue as the federal budget impasse lingers.
The last government shutdown in 1995-1996 cost local businesses near national parks $14 million per day. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), an advocacy group, estimates the actual impact on businesses from the current shutdown could be closer to $30 million per day.
Miriam Robbins, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Grand Canyon Association, said her organization is losing about $30,000 a day because it can't operate its seven stores in the park or offer classes or hiking trips in the park. The proceeds go back to the Grand Canyon.
October is peak season for many tourists who want to see the changing autumn leaves and for weddings in some national parks. Four weddings scheduled for the first week of the shutdown at Yosemite, for example, face cancellation, according to this interactive map from the NPCA.
Approximately 15 percent of the visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park come in October, according to Holly Scott, the marketing director of Friends of the Great Smokies, a nonprofit organization that raises private funds to help maintain the park. Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park generate an estimated $10 million in gateway communities in October, she wrote in a recent blog post.
The shutdown is costing the National Park Service $450,000 a day in lost revenue from fees collected at entry stations and fees paid for activities in the park, such as camping, boat ride and cave tours.
Every federal dollar invested in national parks generates $10 in economic activity, the NPCA said. The parks also support more than a quarter-million jobs and more than $30 billion in private-sector spending each year, the group said.
The National Park Service manages 84 million acres in all 50 states. The shutdown has furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees. Another 12,500 concession employees are employed in national parks during early October.
Some 3,000 National Park Service employees continue to work, providing security, emergency services and firefighting.