State Parks, Forests, Trails, and Recreational Areas and Money*

What is the economic impact of the state park, forest, trail, or recreational area near you? Visitors to the Wisconsin State Park System include both day—trippers and overnight guests; their place of origin varies widely but is important in understanding and isolating new money flowing into the gateway communities surrounding these properties.

  • On average, individual trip spending of visitors to these area ranged from almost $41 per day (State Forests) to over $90 per day (State Trails).
  • During the recent past, the entire park system experienced an average annual visitation level of roughly 14 million visitor-days.
  • Visitors to the Wisconsin State Park System have annual expenditure patterns that, in total, sum to more than 1 billion dollars (2013 USD) per year.
  • The vast majority of this Wisconsin State Park System trip spending (almost 70 percent) is done by visitors to State Parks.
  • Non—local visitors who are not resident in the region containing these state properties infuse private sector stimulus that drives local economic impacts; in sum, the annual spending of these non—locals is estimated to exceed 580 million dollars.
  • The economic impacts of the Wisconsin State Park System vary across the state and depend on property and visitor activity type, visitation levels, and local economic conditions. When combined, the local economic impacts of this private sector stimulus within these regions accounted for over 8,200 jobs and S350 million in income for residents of the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin State Park Funding

 The properties managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Parks and Recreation serve as important drivers of local economic vitality within gateway communities across the state. Further, these properties are managed to protect and conserve important environmental resources of the state and serve as key Wisconsin legacy areas.
Outdoor recreation on public lands serves as a key motivator  for tourism.. State parks,  forests, recreation areas, and trails provide the linkage to these  underlying local assets. Lakes, shorelines, forests, topography,  unique geology, historic and cultural heritage, and bucolic rural  landscapes are driving inputs to the production of the tourism  product. A large portion of the overall demand for travel and  the tourism product is motivated by natural amenities accessed  by recreational sites, often publicly owned and managed. (1)
Watch for future articles for Financial impact of Wisconsin State Recreational Area.
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*(1)Source: Economic Impacts of the Wisconsin State Park System: Connections to Gateway Communities, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, November, 2013, Report # PR-487-2013