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Bend's Pilot Butte offers big view; visitors bring in bucks

New report examines state parks' economic benefits

State Parks can benefit the local...

BEND, Ore. - (Update: Pilot Butte visitors, area restaurants comment)

A report released this week by the Oregon State put out by Oregon State Parks says a region's economy can greatly benefit from having a state park in the area. One of the High Desert's biggest magnets is the view from atop Bend's Pilot Butte.

According to the findings, people who visit state parks in Central Oregon spend over $200,000 a year at local businesses.

The surveys were done by the Oregon Parks and Recreation District by asking people to participate in them while they are visiting state parks.

According to Ross Kihs with Oregon State Parks and Recreation, at Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint alone, they see over a million people visit a year -- and those numbers are probably on the low side.

"I think that everybody loves their parks, and we're no exception," Kihs said Wednesday. "We know a lot of people are coming through Bend stop at the state scenic viewpoint, get to see the top and then maybe go to a restaurant down below."

Many Pilot Butte hikers said they sometimes make a day of it and spend money at various shops and restaurants nearby after their trip up and down the 4,140-foot extinct volcano, a northeast Bend landmark seen for miles.

Nathaniel Palmer lives in Powell Butte and said that when they come into Bend to hike the butte, they always spend a little extra time in the city.

"We live slightly out of town, and we find it's a lot of fun to come in and walk, come off the butte and then maybe go do some shopping. And that is exactly what we are going to do today," Palmer said.

A few restaurants near Pilot Butte say their location really helps business.

Lee Gregory, the manager at Aloha Cafe, says hikers are constantly coming into their restaurant, and they are very dependent on those visitors.

"Depending on the weather, man, especially around here, anywhere between 10 to 30. Seriously, they come in in groups, and we have tables that get filled up so quickly."

Oregon Parks and Recreation said that's something that they often see in more rural areas and economies that are based on the outdoors.

Across the state, 54 million visitors go to state parks each year, and that is key to bringing people to more rural areas.

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Below is Tuesday's press release about the report:

Visitors to Oregon state parks in 2016 contributed $1.1 billion to the state's economy and supported 16,000 full- and part-time jobs, according to a report released Tuesday by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The report, Economic Activity from Recreation Use of Oregon State Park Properties -- System Report, measures how communities near parks benefited economically from the 54 million-plus visits to state parks in 2016. Visitor spending supported 16,000 full-and part-time jobs statewide, equating to a combined salary of $550 million.

"The report clearly shows that Oregon's state parks are more than great places to visit, but also a vital economic engine for local economies across the state," said OPRD recreation planner Terry Bergerson.

OPRD's analysis of the report found that each dollar invested in the Oregon State Parks system generates $30.50 in related economic activity.

OPRD commissioned economist Eric White, a research social scientist with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, to prepare the report at a cost of $45,697 over a six-year period. White analyzed survey responses from more than 18,000 visitors from 84 park properties. OPRD conducted the surveys from 2011-2016.

"We wanted to measure the economic benefits state parks bring to the state," said OPRD Director Lisa Sumption. "The findings are clear: When state parks succeed, so do Oregon communities. We want to keep it that way, so we continue to look at what we can do to improve visitors' experiences."

The report provides information by region and by park. Coastal parks had the greatest number of visits and slightly higher levels of average spending, accounting for about half of the total statewide spending.

Silver Falls State Park provided the largest economic boost, with 1.4 million visits contributing $58.4 million to the local economy. Fort Stevens State Park followed with $40.1 million, and Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site with $34.8 million.

"State parks are also an important side trip during many recreation outings," White said. "We estimate visitors spend about $245 million in local communities during those side trips."

Other key findings include:

>> Visitors spend an average of $25 for a day trip within 30 miles from home to $390 for an overnight camping trip more than 30 miles from home.

>>Visitors most often spend money on gasoline, groceries and purchases in restaurants and bars.

>> More than half ($619 million) of visitor spending across all state parks was generated by visitors who traveled more than 30 miles from home, and who stayed overnight on the property or in a nearby community.

The full report is available at http://bit.ly/OPRDRecreationEconomicReport.


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