Now, more than ever, communities are relying on their local parks and recreation departments for outdoor recreation, health and wellness, and safe open spaces. A well-run park system is not only an amenity, it should support the local economy.
The County oversees more than 120,000 acres of open spaces and eleven regional parks that see visitors from around the world seeking outdoor opportunities. To gain a better understanding of the economic impact of our parks, the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department partnered with the Arizona State University (ASU) School of Community Resources and Development Watts College of Public Service and Community on an economic impact study.
“The County conducts visitor surveys to better understand how we are performing, and what our visitors do with their time and money in our community,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers, District 1. “This partnership with ASU enabled us to take a deeper look inside the data and quantify the value of this precious asset.”
The team from ASU analyzed data from the 2018-2019 Maricopa County Park Visitor Survey. They were able to calculate the overall economic impact of the parks, facilities, and services.
“I was excited to learn how much benefit nearby cities and towns receive from the presence of our large county parks. We are talking about millions of dollars in economic impact,” said Supervisor Clint Hickman, District 4. “And not surprisingly, that impact didn’t stop at the county line. Yavapai and Pinal counties benefit as well.”
The following parks were included in the survey: Cave Creek Regional Park; Estrella Mountain Regional Park, Lake Pleasant Regional Park, McDowell Mountain Regional Park, San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Usery Mountain Regional Park, and White Tank Mountain Regional Park. Here are a few of the key highlights identified by the study:
Impact of Visitor Spending
In 2019, the eight parks included in the study welcomed a total of 1.67 million recreation visitors. These park visitors spent approximately $93.36 million in local gateway regions. The impact of total visitor spending has resulted in:
- $56.99 million in gross regional product
- $36.64 million in labor income
- 796 full/part-time jobs
- $7.68 million in federal tax contributions, and
- $5.17 million in state/local tax contributions.
Top industries that benefited the most from visitor spending, in terms of value-added impact, were museums, historical sites, zoos and parks, lodging, food, and beverage retail stores.
Impact of Park Concessionaires
Maricopa County Parks is home to numerous small and medium-sized businesses or concessionaires. These concessionaires provide additional recreation opportunities and visitor services within the parks that enhance the visitor experience. In return, the concessionaires contribute to central Arizona’s economy.
A total of 557 full/part-time jobs were generated in the region by concessionaires operating in the county parks. This resulted in:
- $25.11 million in direct revenue earned
- $51.57 million revenue output generated
- $30.41 million in gross regional product
- $21.38 million total labor income
- $4.67 million in federal tax contributions, and
- $3.31 million in state tax contributions.
“While reviewing the data, it is worth noting that the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department receives less than 10% of their operating budget from the County’s General Fund. The overwhelming majority of our operating revenue is generated from concessionaire revenue sharing, entrance and camping fees, and events,” stated R.J. Cardin, director for the Parks and Recreation Department.
“Over the past ten years, the county has made significant improvements to the county’s regional parks including the completion of Phase One of the 315-mile Maricopa Trail system,” said Supervisor Bill Gates, District 3. “These are not only important investments in our quality of life, but as this study shows, they are an important regional economic driver.”
“I’m excited to see this data supports the County’s investment in the vast regional park system. It also shows why we should continue to plan for open space and maintain it for future generations,” added Supervisor Steve Chucri, District 2. “The Parks Department is working on the Vision 2030 Plan which builds on the previous master plan and outlines a vision for the next twenty to fifty years. I would like to encourage those interested in the protection of natural and cultural resources to get involved with the project.”
“By visiting our parks, you’re doing something good for your body, you’re doing something good for your soul, and you’re doing something good for the local economy,” said Supervisor Steve Gallardo, District 5. “It’s a win-win-win.”
Details on the department’s Vision 2030 plan can be found at maricopacountyparks.net/about-us/project-overview/. To learn more or read the complete economic impact study, visit Maricopa County’s Parks and Recreation website at maricopacountyparks.net.