By Sam Walker on March 4, 2014
A new National Park Service report estimates the 16-day government shutdown last October cost the Outer Banks $2.4 million in visitor spending from the closing of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The study, prepared by the NPS Natural Resource Stewardship and Science office in Fort Collins, Colo., compared the spending reported in communities surrounding national parks last October with the same period from 2010 to 2012.
The report used an average of the previous three years to factor out the impact of Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012 on many eastern U.S. parks.
When the numbers from 2010 to 2013 are averaged, 134,892 visitors came to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and spent $8 million dollars.
But there was a 30 percent drop in visits in October 2013 to 94,729, with spending of $5.6 million.
Although not noted in the report, 2010 was the last year before 2013 that access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore was not limited by hurricane damage during the fall shoulder season.
North Carolina suffered the third highest loss of visitor spending in the country because of the shutdown at more than $25 million, behind only California and Arizona.
The shutdown came during the peak of the fall leaf-viewing season in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The park, which straddles much of the North Carolina-Tennessee border and is the most visited park in the country, accounted for $25.6 million in losses.
Overall NPS visitation declined by over 7.88 million visitors in 2013 compared to the three-year average October visitation, resulting in a loss of $414 million in NPS related visitor spending in gateway communities across the country, according to the report.