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Natural Economic Assets

Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso County, Texas


Parks have a significant economic impact on communities in Texas. Counties with state parks, particularly rural counties, benefit from the direct spending of out-of-county visitors, which in turn increases both county residents’ personal income and the number of local jobs.

  • Non-local park visitors – visitors from a county other than the one in which a park is located – and park employees spend an average of $2.1 million annually in counties with parks. In each county with a park, on average, this amount generates almost $3 million in retail sales and $1.5 million in resident income each year. These expenditures also generate an average of 59 new jobs in each county with a state park.
  • Rural state parks contribute significantly to the counties in which they are located. In the average rural county that hosts a state park, approximately 90 jobs out of every 10,000 are attributable to park-related expenditures.
  • Rural counties with a state park have taxable retail sales 15 percent higher per capita than rural counties without a state park.

The state realizes gains to the gross state product, personal income and total employment from visitors to state parks who come from outside the state. State parks in urban areas also provide an economic benefit by mitigating some potential environmental costs.

  • Out-of-state visitors to Texas parks contribute $15.7 million in gross state product, $7.9 million in personal income and 288 new jobs to the Texas economy each year.
  • Urban state parks’ role in mitigating environmental impacts such as pollution and storm water run-off is estimated to contribute 3,906 jobs, $233.6 million in gross state product and $153.7 million in personal income to the state’s economy each year.
Pedernales State Park in Blanco County, Texas

In addition, parks and the recreational opportunities they provide are important in recruiting and retaining knowledge-sector workers who are highly sought by employers in many Texas cities.

Anecdotal evidence, too, points to the positive economic impact of state parks. Comptroller staff visited numerous park facilities around the state, conducting interviews with park superintendents and staff, private citizens, parks advocates and volunteers, as well as local business owners, real estate professionals, chambers of commerce and economic development leaders. These interviews bolstered the Comptroller’s finding that state parks are a significant boon to the economies of the communities in which they are located. These officials confirmed that state parks provide many positive benefits to their areas, and they uniformly asserted the importance of the state’s continued financial support of these facilities.

Other benefits provided by state parks cannot be quantified but are equally valuable. These positive attributes include enhanced economic development opportunities, cultural and historical heritage, recreation, health and physical fitness, and environmental preservation and quality.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received increased funding from the 80th Legislature in 2007 (with voter approval) to maintain and repair state park facilities. While it is too early to assess the economic impact of the expenditures resulting from this funding increase, research indicates this investment is likely to have a positive return.

Fishing at  Tyler State Park in Smith County, Texas
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