WASHINGTON — Communities near Acadia National Park suffered a $16.2 million loss from last October’s government shutdown – the third-largest loss in the nation, according to a federal report released Monday.
The number of people who visited Acadia National Park fell 67 percent last October compared to average visitation figures for the month during the previous three years. The estimated $16.2 million loss involved communities within 60 miles of Acadia and was on top of an estimated $262,133 in lost revenues to the park itself, the National Park Service reported.
Only two other parks were believed to have suffered larger economic losses during the 16-day shutdown that occurred after congressional Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on a spending plan to keep government offices open. Communities surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee took an estimated $25.6 million hit, while those near Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park lost $17 million, according to the study.
The 16-day park closure came at the peak of Maine’s fall foliage season and during the final weeks of operations for many seasonal businesses on Mount Desert Island and in nearby communities. But Stacey Smith, owner of the Manor House Inn bed and breakfast in Bar Harbor, said the area actually endured “a double whammy on each end” of the season.
In the spring, the popular Park Loop Road remained closed nearly a month longer than normal because of the “sequestration” budget cuts. That meant reduced access to the area’s big tourist draw for six weeks of a six-month season for many businesses.
“It was a big hit for my business personally and to the whole region, for sure,” said Smith, an officer on the board of directors of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
National parks generated an estimated $26.8 billion in economic activity in “gateway” communities in 2012, supporting more than 200,000 jobs in the local towns outside, according to a second report released by the U.S. Department of the Interior on Monday. The park service reported more than 280 million visitors that year.
More than 2.4 million people visited Acadia National Park that year. Those visitors spent an estimated $200.9 million and supported roughly 3,100 jobs in the state, the park service reported.
Visitation to Acadia fluctuates year over year but has held relatively steady at approximately 2.5 million during the past decade, said John Kelly, park planner at Acadia.
Just shy of 95,000 people were estimated to have visited Acadia during October 2013, compared to an average of 287,500 each October from 2010 to 2012.
“We know that October is one of the busiest months – in fact, it is busier than June – which partially explains why there was such a large economic impact,” Kelly said.
Across the country, an estimated 7.9 million fewer people visited national parks during October compared to that month in the previous three years. The National Park Service study estimated a $414 million loss nationwide to so-called “gateway communities.”
“October is a very important month in terms of visitation, particularly in the southern tier parks,” Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, said in a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. “A lot of gateway communities rely on that period.”
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