Florida state parks’ record breaking year a boon for economy

Homosassa Springs 2
Photo credit: Floridastateparks.org

Florida’s award-winning state parks and trails have achieved record-breaking attendance while contributing to the economy according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Florida’s parks produced $1.2 billion in economic impact during the last fiscal year, and hosted a record 25.5 million visitors according to the agency’s statement. The “three-time National Gold Medal-winning system” saw nearly 600,000 more visitors than the previous year.

“With more than 25 million visitors at our parks last year, it’s clear that Florida’s state parks are among the best in the world,” Gov. Rick Scott said in the statement. “These parks provide families with incredible opportunities to enjoy our natural treasures, and they create jobs for Florida families. With Florida’s parks generating $1.2 billion in economic activity last year, it’s clear that our efforts to enhance our state parks are working. To better support and promote our parks, we’ve made strategic investments including increasing the budget for park repairs by $5 million, $63 million in VISIT FLORIDA to better attract visitors, nearly $37 million in restoring and protecting our state’s springs, and creating more license free fishing days. Today is great news, and we’ll continue working to make Florida’s state parks the best in the world.”

The statement also said:

In 2012-2013, the Florida Park Service had an overall direct economic impact of nearly $1.2 billion on local economies throughout the state. Direct economic impact is defined as the amount of new dollars spent in the local economy by non-local park visitors and by park operations funds spent in the local economy. More than $77 million was contributed to general revenues in the form of state sales taxes.

In addition, 19,104 jobs were supported as a result of the state park system operations. For every 1,000 people visiting a state park or trail, the total direct impact on the local community is almost $47,000. In October, the Florida Parks Service won its third National Gold Medal for Excellence, becoming not only the only state to win three gold medals, but also the only state to win two.

“Florida’s award-winning state parks and state trails attract visitors from around the world, and Governor Scott and First Lady Ann Scott are some of our biggest enthusiasts,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Those visitors enjoy our natural and cultural resources and contribute to the economy of Florida, which supports jobs.”

The top-visited state trail was the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail with 1,983,489 visitors and more than $91 million in direct economic impact. Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin welcomed more visitors than any other state park in Florida for the seventh year in a row with 1,044,295 visitors and more than $46.3 million in direct economic impact.

“State parks and trails have inspired residents and visitors for more than 78 years,” said Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione, “We have a longstanding tradition of offering family friendly, world-class outdoor recreation.”

Rounding out the top 10 visited state parks are:

  • Cross Florida Greenway – 998,927 visitors
  • St. Andrews State Park, Panama City – 893,102 visitors
  • Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach – 846,012 visitors
  • Gasparilla Island State Park, Boca Grande – 799,811 visitors
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo – 769,751 visitors
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne – 657,184 visitors
  • Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach – 598,459 visitors
  • Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key – 582,093 visitors

The economic impacts of these parks and trails are due to their location and level of development, leading to high attendance and park expenditure levels. Those parks and trails which are fully developed and can sustain high attendance have the largest direct economic impact on the local economy.

Economic impact is calculated as the amount of new dollars spent in the local economy by non-local park visitors and park operations. The Florida Park Service uses the Money Generation Model designed for and used by the National Park Service to assess economic impact in the local area around a park.


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