LBJ Park a huge boom to area

A report released this week from the National Park Service shows that 111,000 visitors to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall and Johnson City in 2012 spent $6,961,800 in communities near the park. While it’s no doubt of the park’s impact on local tourism, to see it quantified is rewarding.

Visitor spending to the parks supported 84 jobs in the local area, the NPS stated.

Park Superintendent Russ Whitlock said the park welcomes visitors from around the globe. “We are delighted to share the stories of this place and use the national park as a way to introduce our visitors to the love-affair President and Mrs. Johnson had for the Hill Country,” Whitlock said.

As well as being a boost to our local economy, the park leader also said that national park tourism was a significant driver in the overall national economy — returning $10 for every $1 invested in the NPS. We see that as rewarding, given the current cut-to-the-bone mentality of congressional leaders.

There is little doubt that Fredericksburg benefits from a large percentage of the visitors to the LBJ national and state parks. It would be interesting to see a similar comparison to how Enchanted Rock State Natural Area’s quarter-million visitors benefit Fredericksburg and surrounding communities. (A 2006 study by the AgriLife Extension Service showed a $500,000 surplus that went to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department each year from ERSNA. Today, as park visitation has grown considerably, that total is no doubt much larger.)

The visitor spending analysis was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. That spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 of those found in these gateway communities. Together, these had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.75 billion.

You can’t ask for a cleaner industry than parks. Aside from the increase in traffic, park tourism is as clean an industry as there is. And our parks, the showcasing of our area’s natural beauty, are part of the reasons why LBJ and Lady Bird loved the Hill Country.

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