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As Centennial Nears, More Visitors Going To National Parks

The National Park Service celebrates its centennial Aug. 25 and more people are making a point to visit. 

A new report shows that 9.9 million people who stopped at Pennsylvania’s 19 national parksand historic sites spent $453 million dollars last year. That’s an increase of 14.7 percent from a year earlier, but still five percent lower than 2013.

Keith Newlin, deputy superintendent for the National Park Service in Western Pennsylvania, said 31 percent of the revenues came from lodging.

“You’re going to come and you’re probably going to have a little meal on the side, you have to buy some gas and there are opportunities for some educational purchases in the visitor’s center,” Newlin said. “So it’s the side purchases that really generate the income for a day trip in western Pennsylvania.”

The biggest draw among national parks in the commonwealth last year was Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, generating $247 million in revenue. Visitors to Gettysburg spent $68 million last year.

Newlin said he expects the centennial to increase the number of visitors to the parks.

“Every national park means something different to almost everybody in this country, so just go out and find your park, find the space that really touches you, gives you a sense of connection to the past or the future or recreation,” Newlin said. “And I think we’ve been successful in getting that out to the public.”

Last year, across the country 307 million park visitors spent $16.9 billion.

The release of data on increased revenues comes six weeks after Jon Jarvis, National Park Service director, told NPRthat the agency has a nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog, including $500 million in repairs at Yosemite National Park.