Montana State Parks is working with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana to understand the economic benefits that visitors to state parks bring to local communities and statewide. Visitors will be contacted by Parks staff and asked for their assistance during three one-week periods this summer, ending September 6.
The analysis will help Montana State Parks understand what expenditures visitors make during their trip on such items as gasoline, car rental, lodging, restaurant meals, groceries, and supplies. The data will help State Parks and their tourism partners understand revenue brought to local communities, personal income to Montanans, and the number of full and part-time jobs created due to non-resident tourism at state parks.
A similar survey was conducted in 2002, showing that over $179.5 million was spent statewide by visitors to Montana State Parks. Non-resident spending generated over $81 million to community economies, $23.3 million in personal income to Montanans, and 1,170 full and part-time jobs.
Visitors to state parks may be asked by park staff if they are willing to answer a ten-to-fifteen minute telephone survey after they return home. If visitors are willing to participate, staff will send their name and contact information to BBER who will phone them within a week or two of their trip. A minimum of 400 Montanans and 400 non-residents will be surveyed.
Chas Van Genderen, State Parks Administrator, encourages people to share their time for this important study. “While visitor comment cards indicate a very high level of satisfaction with services and facilities, the future of state parks is not secure,” he stated. “Because of that, people will be asked to provide feedback on ways of improving state parks during these challenging economic times. Montanans will need to respond to some tough management decisions in the next few years.” The state parks program receives no general fund tax support or hunting and fishing license monies.Montana’s state parks hosted a record 2 million visits last year. “Trends nationwide indicate that people continue to recreate even when times are tough,” said Van Genderen. “Getting outdoors strengthens families and supports communities.”