As spring arrives, so does the annual influx of visitors to one of the area’s favorite destinations.
While stopping at Cape Lookout National Seashore, they will climb Cape Lookout Lighthouse, watch for the wild horses that roam Shackleford Banks and fish and comb the unspoiled barrier island beaches for seashells.
During their visit, many will also shop at local businesses, dine at local restaurants and stay a night or two at area hotels and vacation rentals. They may even spend the night at one of the seashore’s rustic cabins.
According to a new National Park Service report, more than 480,000 people visited Cape Lookout National Seashore in 2012, spending $20.9 million in the area during their stay.
“Park visitation generated more than $20 million in spending, from food to various services, and that’s a lot of money going into the community,” said Pat Kenney, Cape Lookout National Seashore superintendent.
That visitor spending supported 297 jobs in local communities surrounding the Carteret County park, according to the report.
“For every dollar invested, the National Park Service returns $10 to the United States economy. That’s a pretty good return on investment,” Kenney said.
While the report cites 2012 visitation numbers, Kenney said employees are always working to increase visitation to the seashore.
As the peak of the tourism season approaches in Eastern North Carolina, Kenney said he is hopeful that the new “gateway” facility on the Beaufort waterfront will help increase awareness of the national seashore. The facility, which will include a new passenger ferry service to the seashore as well as exhibits and park information, is expected to open in April.
“One of the critical things about the gateway is it will help heighten people’s awareness of the National Park Service being in this community,” Kenney said.
And Cape Lookout is not alone.
The National Park Service presence in North Carolina also includes Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Moores Creek National Battlefield, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and portions of Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The report shows that visitors to national parks in North Carolina spent $1.11 billion and supported 16,703 jobs in North Carolina in 2012.
U.S. Geological Survey economists conducted the visitor spending analysis for the park service.
Overall, the report indicated that there was $14.7 billion in direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. The spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in the gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the United State economy of $26.75 billion, the report said.
Most visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, lodging and other amusements and recreation sites.
To view the full report online, visit nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.
For more information on Cape Lookout National Seashore, go to www.nps.gov/calo/index.htm.
Jannette Pippin is a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News.