Governor O'Malley releases first-ever study of Maryland State Parks economic benefits

Governor O'Malley releases first-ever study of Maryland State Parks economic benefits

Baltimore, MD (March 15, 2010) "Governor Martin O'Malley announced yesterday the results of the first-ever comprehensive Maryland State Parks Economic Impact and Visitor Study at a meeting with tourism and state parks stakeholders at New Germany State Park. According to the study, Maryland State Parks have an estimated annual economic benefit to local economies and the State of more than $650 million annually.
"This report demonstrates that Maryland's network of 66 State Parks is a tremendous asset to our State, providing both exciting recreational opportunities to residents and visitors and significant economic benefits," said Governor O'Malley. "The impact of visitor spending in our communities proves that our investments in visitor experiences provide valuable returns - including job creation -that help keep Maryland smart, green and growing."
Both day and overnight visitors to State Parks were surveyed between May and October 2010 for the study, which was conducted in partnership with the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Association of Destination Marketing Organizations.
Tom Riford is the chairman of the Maryland Association of Destination Marketing Organizations (MDMO). "This project was important for both state parks and for the tourism industry," Riford said at the tourism and parks breakfast roundtable meeting at New Germany State Park. "This economic impact and visitor study shows the importance of parks to our local and state economy. The organization of tourism directors throughout the state (MDMO) is very pleased to have helped sponsor and support this study. We have been working on this initiative for over two years."
According to the study, State Park visitors directly spent more than $567 million during their trips to State Parks, spending which supported more than 10,000 full-time jobs and generated more than $39 million in state and local retail, hotel, gas and income taxes.
"We have always known that Maryland's tremendous natural resources are an important component of the State's attractiveness as a travel destination," said Margot A. Amelia, executive director, Maryland Office of Tourism. "Now, we have definitive numbers and information thanks to this great partnership between two state agencies, the tourism offices across the state and countless volunteers."
Overall, the majority of visitors to Maryland State Parks ranked their experience as positive, with 95 percent of day visitors and 94 percent of overnight visitors having had their expectations met or exceeded. More than 90 percent of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that Maryland State Parks offer a safe and affordable way to escape from stress, connect with nature, and offer a positive experience for their children.
"The Maryland Park Service works closely and proactively with private tourism businesses and public tourism agencies to foster nature and heritage tourism in Maryland, so these results are really not surprising," said Superintendent Nita Settina. "It is especially heartening to see the pride and commitment of our staff and volunteers validated as they work to host visitors in safe, welcoming places that nourish mind, body and spirit."
The study also found that for every dollar the State invests, visitors spend $25.56 locally during their State Park visits. The significant economic benefits outlined in this report underscore the importance of land preservation funding paid for through the Maryland Transfer Tax. This dedicated fund supports Program Open Space and other land acquisition programs that keep land ecologically sound and safe from development. Preserving land not only impacts the surrounding economies, but also increases local property values and preserves Maryland's natural beauty. Governor O'Malley's Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which is currently being considered by the General Assembly, includes $46.6 million to support DNR-related land conservation and recreation programs that will continue to support green jobs, attract out-of-state tourism dollars and reduce polluted storm water runoff in the Chesapeake Bay.
The complete report is available at www.visitmaryland.org/AboutMDTourism/Pages/TourismNewsAndReports.aspx

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau provides financial and promotional support for local Maryland State Parks. For more information about the 8 state parks and 5 national parks in Washington County, see: www.marylandmemories.com.