On March 14, Governor Martin O’Malley announced the results of the first-ever comprehensive Maryland State Parks Economic Impact and Visitor Study at a meeting with stakeholders at New Germany State Park in Garrett County. According to the study, Maryland State Parks have an estimated annual economic benefit to local economies and the State of more than $650 million annually.
Both day and overnight visitors to State Parks were surveyed between May and October 2010 for the study, which was conducted in partnership with the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Association of Destination Marketing Organizations. According to the study, State Park visitors directly spent more than $567 million during their trips to State Parks, spending which supported more than 10,000 full-time jobs and generated more than $39 million in state and local retail, hotel, gas and income taxes.
In an article from the Potomac Highlands Dispatch, provided to MACo courtesy of the Maryland Reporter.com, Governor O’ Malley stated “the significant economic impacts outlined in this report underscore the importance of land preservation funding paid for through the Maryland Transfer Tax. This dedicated fund supports Program Open Space and other land acquisition programs that keep land ecologically sound and safe from development.”
Fred Schaich, president of Western Garrett County State Park Volunteers, referenced a recent proposal from the Department of Legislative Services to cut funding for Program Open Space caused him concern.
“Parks also have an education impact,” along with a recreational draw, Schaich said. “lots of children come through these parks for natural programs. I understand that for the next few years (Government might) drastically cut the budget for state parks. I strongly hope that doesn’t happen. To cut funding would be unreal.”