A newly released economic impact study might have Central New Yorkers thinking about state parks in a whole new way. The study was conducted by a University of Massachusetts affiliated research institute, and examined the economic impact of the park system by looking at how visitors spend money in the surrounding economy. Robin Dropkin is the Executive Director of Parks and Trails: New York. She says state spending on the parks system is a better investment than most people might guess.
"The state actually spends money but they get more than what they put in. So the study actually shows that for everyone $1 the state puts into the park system every $1 that they invest they get back $9, that's a pretty good investment by, I think, anybody's standard."
The study took place between April of 2015 and March of 2016. During this time, 67 million visits to New York State parks generated about $4 billion in spending by both local and non-local visitors. This covers spending directly associated with the park, like entrance fees and usage fees. But Dropkin says it also includes the money circulating in the surrounding area.
"You can imagine if somebody spends $5 on a hamburger at a near by restaurant then that restaurant had to purchase the hamburger, it had to be distributed, they have workers in that restaurant, those workers spend the money."
Dropkin says it doesn’t hurt that the Cuomo Administration has made park improvements a priority under his New York Parks 2020 plan.
"Governor Cuomo has committed over 10 years to invest $900 million, certainly evident in parks all across the state from new places to eat at Jones Beach to new nature centers at Letchworth and Thacher."
Dropkin says that translates to more visitors and more spending. There’s been a 21 percent increase in state park attendance since 2011.