Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Effect of State Parks on the Country Economies of the West

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Effect of State Parks on the Country Economies of the West

Article excerpt

Introduction

Traditionally, the local economic development implications of State Parks has been analyzed from the point-of-view of economic base theory. Economic base models view the local economy as being driven by demand from outside the region. That is, the recreational opportunities afforded by a State Park are "exported" to non-residents and it these non-resident expenditures that drive the local economy. From a State-wide perspective, however, recreational expenditures are not seen as having an economic effect (unless they are made by non-State residents) if State recreationists simply substitute one in-State activity for another.1 At the local level, though, economic effects are possible as "outside" dollars are injected into the local economy, even if they are the expenditures of State (non-community) residents.

Quantification of these economic effects (impacts) is usually made through the use of regional input-output (I/O) models (Miller & Blair, 1985). After obtaining data on the expenditures made on a typical recreation trip to a State Park, determining where (spatially) these expenditures likely occur (i.e., in or out of the local community), and allocating the intracommunity expenditures among the sectors of the community economy, the I/O model then computes the total economic effect of a typical State Park visit.2 An annual effect can be computed by multiplying the number of visits per year to the State Park by the typical visit impact. Examples of this type of analysis as applied to State Parks are Cordell et al. (1989a, 1989b), Bergstrom et al. (1990), and Cordell et al. (1992).3

The national and regional migration literature, however, suggests that local economies may also be driven by supply-side factors. People move for a variety of reasons, some of which include the amenities of a region such as climate, open space, scenic beauty, and, possibly, State Parks (Knapp & Graves, 1989). If State Parks are seen as enhancing the local amenities and serve as an attractant to in-migration, then State Parks can have an indirect effect on the local economy as well as a direct effect. That is, high-amenity counties attract population, which in turn leads to higher levels of employment. This indirect effect is in addition to the traditional direct effect on employment caused by the exportation of recreational opportunities to nonresidents.

The current study of the economic effect of State Parks differs from previous recreational impact studies in two respects. First, quantification of the economic effect is achieved through the estimation of an econometric model. Using cross sectional data from 250 non-metropolitan counties in the eight-State intermountain west, the hypothesis tested is that 1990 county population and employment densities are unrelated to the number of State Parks, measured in terms of density, in the county. The second difference stems from the model of regional economic development upon which the estimating equations are based. In order to capture both the direct and indirect linkages between State Parks and local economic activity, a simultaneous model is used, one that relates population to employment and employment to population at the county level. In additional, the model assumes that regions are not currently in equilibrium with respect to their population and employment and that substantial adjustment costs are incurred as regions move toward equilibrium.

Section II of this paper presents descriptive statistics on State Parks across the 50 States and across the 280 counties that comprise the eight-State intermountain west. The theoretical model supporting the analysis is presented in Section III, while the empirical model is presented in Section IV. The estimated economic effect of State Parks on county population and employment is presented in Section V. Concluding comments are made in Section VI.

State Parks in the Intermountain West

Every state of the union has a state park system, albeit some are more extensive than others. …

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