National parks draw tourists to Alaska

Posted: Friday, November 28, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Alaska has more than two-thirds of the national park land in this country, and the parks are a tourist draw that generates more than $100 million a year for the state's economy, a new study shows.

Last year, 2.1 million people visited national parks in the state, said Jim Stratton, regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, a park advocacy group.

Visitors to Denali, Glacier Bay near Juneau and other Alaska national parks and monuments produced $72.4 million in sales and income from the nearly 2,000 jobs they directly created, said Stratton, citing a Michigan State University study.

The total economic impact of national park tourism in 2001 was nearly $101 million by conservative estimates, said Stratton, in lunchtime remarks earlier this week to the Anchorage Rotary.

Alaska has 54 million acres of national park land. In a resource-dependent state such as Alaska, national parks often take a beating from politicians, property rights advocates, pro-development boosters and others.

Stratton alluded to it in his opening remarks.

"They've been a battleground for some that think resisting federal land management is almost a sport," Stratton said.

But national parks equate to a "strong shot in the arm," especially for nearby communities that produce goods and services for visitors and park employees, he said.

In Seward, for example, about 90,000 passengers in 2000 boarded day-cruise boats that toured nearby Kenai Fjords National Park. At $100 a ticket for a daylong trip, that translates into $9 million in visitor spending, he said.

Another 55,000 people took half-day tours, adding another $4 million to the total, Stratton said.

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