The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) invites all Oregonians to join it in celebrating National Park Week, which runs through Sunday, April 29.
The week was designed to celebrate the important role played by national parks in our state and country.
Oregon’s national park sites offer some of the best-in-class experiences for all visitors. From the stunning beauty of Crater Lake, the John Day Fossil Beds, and Oregon Caves, to the cultural significance of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and Old Chief Joseph’s Grave Site, national parks in Oregon entertain, educate, and enrich visitors from around the world.
Those visitors are important to the state and Oregon restaurant and lodging establishments.
In 2016, more than 1 million people visited national park sites in Oregon. The National Park Service (NPS) estimates that those visitors spent $97.5 million in communities with proximity to national parks. That spending supported 1,640 jobs and added a cumulative benefit of $138.4 million to the state economy – money that helps ORLA members and our overall economy.
Our organization supports more than 9,900 foodservice locations and 2,200 lodging establishments in Oregon. The foodservice and lodging industry is responsible for 173,700 jobs, and brings in more than $10.8 billion in annual sales and generates more than 54 percent of the annual tourism dollars spent in Oregon.
We know how important national park visitors are to those numbers, which is why we are taking the opportunity during National Park Week to encourage Congress to give the parks service the funds it needs to address critical infrastructure repairs.
Nationwide, the National Park Service (NPS)has maintenance needs totaling $11.6 billion, largely due to aging infrastructure and inconsistent federal funding. These needs include impassable trails, deteriorating historic buildings, crumbling roads, and degraded water and electrical systems. The estimated price tag to address repairs within park sites in Oregon is more than $105 million and growing. This backlog impedes NPS’ ability to keep its sites safe and accessible for visitors.
It is in the best interest of Oregon’s tourism economy to keep our tourist draws open for business, and our parks are no exception. If national parks are closed and/or if the visitor experience is subpar, repeat visitors are less likely.
The good news is that our Oregon congressional delegation understands that protecting national parks is important to our economy as well as to our culture and history. Oregon Reps. Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley all are supporting bills designed to create dedicated funds for NPS to draw down its deferred maintenance backlog.
Oregon's congressional delegation’s commitment to restore our parks will preserve these national treasures for generations to come, create jobs, and protect local and state economies that depend on parks for their livelihood.
We thank them for their leadership.