WHITE SANDS, N.M. (KRQE) – A new report from the National Parks Service is highlighting the economic impact of White Sands National Park on nearby communities during 2020. During the pandemic, many families opted for outdoor recreation like a trip to White Sands.
“Throughout this whole pandemic, public lands have created space for Americans to recreate responsibly and that’s including White Sands,” Kelly Carroll, Chief of Interpretation at White Sands National Park told KRQE in March 2021.
And that’s paying off. According to the report, in 2020, White Sands visitors spent $22.5 billion in nearby communities. That’s down by about $11 million in 2019. The report said the spending supported 309 jobs in the area and had a total economic output to the area’s economy of $26 million.
“We have been excited to welcome our local communities back to White Sands National Park
as a place to explore, discover, and share the stories and the experiences it provides,” said
Superintendent Marie Sauter in a press release. “During the pandemic, White Sands has been a needed destination to responsibly recreate in a safe environment.”
Despite being closed from March to June 2020, the 2020 report shows the national park saw 415,383 visitors. That’s about a 30% decrease from 2019. In March, KRQE talked to the park about its recent surge of visitors. In late 2020 and early 2021, it saw more visitors than it has in those months in the last five years.
“I’m always excited when people visit or discover their national parks. I mean, they’re wonderful places, and even during really tough times like this, I think they really do show their value,” Carroll had told KRQE in March 2021.
Park officials credited the uptick in visitors to keeping recreational areas like hiking trails open in addition to its recent designation from a national monument to a national park. “It just puts you on a lot more bucket lists. It just creates a bigger exposure to the park to people and so I think there are people putting White Sands on their travel plans,” said Carroll.
The 2020 report shows visitors during that year supported about 309 local jobs. Nationally, 237 million people visited national parks across the country spending more than $14.5 billion in nearby communities in 2020.