Maine state parks generated more than $95 million last year in visitor spending, jobs and other economic activity, according to a study to be released today (June 14).
The Portland Press Herald reported that the study was done to calculate the overall contribution of state parks to Maine’s economy. Officials also wanted to learn more about the characteristics, behaviors and perceptions of visitors to 42 staffed parks and historic sites. Roughly 2 million people visit these state facilities each year.
The research, conducted through a mail-back survey last summer and fall, was done for the Maine Department of Conservation by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.
The study included 20 day-use-only parks, 12 campground parks with day-use areas and 10 historic sites.
According to a preliminary summary of the study’s findings:
• Parks and historic sites generated $95.7 million in economic activity during 2005. Most of it came from direct visitor spending on gasoline, food, lodging and other goods and services.
• Parks supported 1,449 jobs. Park operations were tied to 365 of those positions.
• Park visits and operations tallied $5.9 million in tax revenue; admission and other fees returned another $2.2 million to state and local government.
The study also helped form an overall picture of who uses Maine’s state parks, and what they do there. Findings showed:
• Roughly two-thirds of visitors were Maine residents.
• Nearly half said coming to the park was the primary purpose of their trip.
• The most common activities were observing nature, picnicking, swimming and photography.
• The average size of a visiting party was 4.1 people; half of all parties included at least one child.
• More than 95% rated their stay as good or excellent.
• Nearly 85% expected to visit a park or historic site more than once.
The study also indicates that Maine’s staffed parks are predominantly used by day trippers, rather than campers. The study found that the largest share of the spending – $37.4 million, or 64% – was linked to visits at day-use parks. Historic sites accounted for $12.1 million, or 20%. Campgrounds brought in $8.6 million, or 15 percent of the spending.