National parks bring $870 million to Tennessee

Nature lovers who visited National Parks Service lands in Tennessee last year spent $870 million in surrounding communities, according to a new federal report.

  • That money has helped support more than 11,700 jobs, according to the federal agency.

Driving the news: The Park Service released a report last month charting the economic ripple effects of national parks, monuments, recreation areas and other sites it oversees.

  • You can dive into state and park data online.

State of play: Tennessee ranked seventh in the nation in park visitor spending, with more than 11 million visits to national park sites within our borders.

  • Spending has been on the rise in the state for several years, although it fell slightly at the start of the pandemic.
  • Most of the money went to accommodations, restaurants, and gas.

The plot: The Great Smoky Mountains attracted more spending than any other place in the national system.

  • The sprawling park brought in nearly $1.3 billion in visitor spending — though the total was split between Tennessee and our neighbors North Carolina.

Enlarge: Natchez Trace Parkway, which begins in Nashville and runs through Alabama and Mississippi, had 6.4 million visitors and $178 million in spending across three states.

  • The Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro attracted more than 365,000 visits and $23.8 million in spending.

What they say : “Tennessee’s 13 national parks are transforming communities because they generate jobs, visitor spending and economic value,” Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development, told Axios.

Zoom out: Nationally, nearly 300 million people spent more than $20 billion in communities surrounding national parks in 2021.

💭 Adam’s thought bubble: I love living so close to Natchez Trace Parkway. Each year I pick a day to do part of the scenic drive when the fall leaves are at their most vibrant.

  • It doesn’t hurt that you can book your visit with a cookie from the Loveless Cafe.