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Visitors to State Parks across Oregon spent a total of $1.1 billion in nearby communities

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - A recent report found that local visitors typically spend more money than non-local visitors while visiting Milo McIver State Park.

Local visitors spent $1,811 more than their nonlocal counterparts at Milo McIver State Park, according to a study recently released by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The study, titled Economic Activity from Recreation Use of Oregon State Park Properties, examines how neighboring communities benefited financially from visits to state parks.

Across the state in 2016, visitors to Oregon State Parks properties spent more than $1.1 billion in communities near the parks. The study found that visitors most often spend money on gasoline and groceries, as well as food and beverages in restaurants and bars.

"The economic benefits result from having a healthy state park system," said Terry Bergerson, an outdoor recreation planner with Oregon State Parks. "It's an incredible return on investment."

To gather information for the study, visitors to Oregon State Parks were systematically surveyed between 2011 and 2016. The data for Milo McIver State Park was gathered in 2011. During that year, the park received a total of 480,119 visits; those traveling 30 miles or less to reach the park spent a total of $4,797, and those who traveled more than 30 miles to reach the park spent a total of $2,986.

Though the numbers for Milo McIver were gathered six years ago, Bergerson believes similar trends would potentially be reflected if the information had been gathered this year.

"It's a tough question. . .I don't think things have changed much since 2011," he said.

Despite date showing local visitors spent more than their nonlocal counterparts at Milo McIver State Park, data for the Willamette Valley region of parks as a whole shows that nonlocals outspent locals in many categories. The Willamette Valley region consists of 35 parks, trails and recreation sites including Milo McIver State Park, Molalla River State Park, Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint and Detroit Lake State Recreation Area.

In this region, nonlocal overnight visitors typically spent $34.91 more than their local counterparts at restaurants, $39 more than locals on lodging, and 49 cents more than locals on camping. Local overnight visitors spent $2.63 more than their nonlocal counterparts on souvenirs.

For day visits, nonlocals spent $8.03 more than locals at restaurants, $5.50 more than locals on groceries and 88 cents more than locals on souvenirs.

In other areas of the state, visitors to coastal parks accounted for approximately half of the total statewide spending at parks, and Silver Falls State Park provided the largest local economic boost, with 1.4 million visitors contributing $58.4 million to businesses in the surrounding communities.

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