The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s estimated visits and economic impact declined more than 10 percent last year, but the park is still a major contributor to the local economy, according to an annual federal report.
The park system drew more than 2.7 million visits in 2016, with visitors spending more than $119 million locally, according to the “National Park Visitor Spending Effects” report released April 20. (“Visits” can reflect repeat visitors, and are estimated based only on recreational trips.) The park system sustained 1,841 jobs and had a total regional economic impact of about $167 million, the report says.
Those numbers were down from 2015, when the park system drew about 3.2 million visits and spending estimated at almost $134 million. That year, the park system reportedly sustained more than 2,000 jobs and had a regional economic impact of nearly $185 million. However, the numbers tend to fluctuate significantly year-to-year, as 2014’s numbers were even lower than 2016’s.
The entire National Park system drew about 331 million visitors, who spent about $18.4 billion, the report says. The nationwide park visiting numbers were up 7.7 percent over 2015.
The “Visitor Spending Effects” report is produced by the National Park System and the U.S. Geological Survey. While it is essentially an in-house report, its authors say it is peer-reviewed for accepted methods of calculating its data and accuracy in doing so.
However, the numbers are all estimates with varying degrees of accuracy. The report says that lodging is the sector that benefits most from visitor spending, but it also says that the economic benefits of lodging are among the toughest to accurately measure. The report also says that, after using newer methods of calculation, the 2015 estimate of the Chattahoochee’s spending estimates were probably 1 percent too low.
The 48-mile riverfront park system stretches from Lake Lanier in Forsyth County to the Vinings area in Cobb County and Atlanta, with park headquarters in Sandy Springs.