The Great Smoky Mountains National Park impacts East Tennessee's economy in a big way.
A new National Park Service report shows more than 9.6 million visitors entered the Smokies in 2012, and the money they spent impacted not only the park, but the surrounding community and the states of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Researchers estimate that national parks return $10 dollars to the national economy for every dollar spent on them by the government.
"In this park, you generated $741 million dollars in visitor spending and support more than 10,900 jobs locally just because this park is here. So you are a model here in the Smokies for public, private partnerships, for working together as a community to take care of this resource," said U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
The national parks in Tennessee are Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Shiloh National Military Park, Stones River National Battlefield, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Obed Wild and Scenic Rivers, and portions of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Overall, the report shows that 8,414,094 people visited our national parks in Tennessee. They spent $541 million and supported 7,868 jobs in the state in 2012.
"Tennessee has become a world player in tourism," said Stan Austin, NPS Southeast Regional Director. "Beyond its beauty and recreation, the state has been home to presidents and poets. Some of the most ferocious fighting of the American Civil War occurred in the forests of Tennessee. People from around the corner and around the world travel here and and end up spending a little money along the way."