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Natural Tunnel makes multi-million economic impact

Nick Shepherd • Updated Jan 31, 2017 at 8:22 AM

Visitors to Natural Tunnel State Park contribute millions of dollars to Scott County and the surrounding region, according to the Virginia State Parks Economic Report.

The report, which is compiled by Virginia Tech, estimates economic activity and impacts that state parks around the commonwealth have on the local economy. It examined direct and secondary impacts for parks on a statewide level, estimated direct and secondary impacts for each park, identified economic benefits from out-of-state visitors, estimated spending for visitors to the parks and modeled economic benefits due to park operational spending and improvement projects.

Natural Tunnel had a $7.2 million economic impact on the commonwealth and brought in $4.7 million in direct visitor spending. Combined, parks across Virginia brought in $224 million in visitor spending.

"In 2016, Virginia State Parks hosted over 10 million visitors, more than a million of whom spent the night in our world-class cabins and campgrounds. These important economic drivers support more than 3,500 private and public jobs across Virginia and improve quality of life in our commonwealth,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a press release. “Last year, out-of-state visitors spent around $98 million as the result of our state park system, an incredible return on only $19.8 million in general fund appropriations.”

According to the report, day visitors to Natural Tunnel spent $3,948,431 while overnight users spent $722,874. Residents spent $2,625,120 while non-residents spent $2,046,185.

Natural Tunnel was directly responsible for providing 67 jobs and indirectly responsible for another 10 jobs.

The park also brought in $8.1 million in tax revenues for the commonwealth.

“For every $1 we receive from the General Assembly, Virginia State Parks generate 99 cents in tax revenue,” said Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver. “Sales taxes, business taxes and state income taxes all help to make state parks nearly budget neutral.”

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