How would a national recreation area benefit the region?

Economic benefits

National park visitors make a significant contribution to the nation’s economy and, especially, to gateway communities adjacent to these areas. The National Park Service reports that 327.5 million visitors in 2019 spent $21 billion in local gateway regions while visiting national parks. The national economic impact of this spending supported 340,500 jobs, $14.1 billion in labor income, $24.3 billion in value added, and $41.7 billion in economic output.[1]

Twenty national park units in Maryland and Virginia contributed $1.07 billion to the region’s economy in 2019 and national park units in the District of Columbia added an additional $830 million.[2] National parks and monuments are also among the top four priority destinations for international tourism. Over one third of all international visitors visit national parks and monuments.

The principal economic beneficiaries of park visitation include vendors in the food, lodging, outdoor recreation, and travel businesses. Other local and national firms benefit by providing services or supplies required for operating, maintaining, and sustaining recreation sites and opportunities.

A Chesapeake National Recreation Area would create a major new draw for visitors to the region and make substantial contributions to the region’s economy. Consider, for example, the economic impacts of a set of existing national park units relevant to a Chesapeake National Recreation Area model.

2019 National Park Visitor Spending Effects and Federal Appropriations

Park Unit 2019 Economic Output[3] FY20 Operations Appropriation[4]
Gateway National Recreation Area $287.5 million $26.3 million
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area $43 million $8.9 million
Shenandoah National Park $128.8 million $12.6 million
Cape Cod National Seashore $672 million $8 million
Assateague Island National Seashore $116.8 million $5.6 million
Indiana Dunes National Park $130 million $9.5 million
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park $143 million $9.6 million
Boston National Historical Park $273 million $9.9 million


Additional NPS resources

National Park Service sites have long been recognized for their focus on interpretation—engaging visitors with the many stories and meanings of a place. In recent years, the National Park Service has increasingly focused on conveying the stories of under-represented peoples and communities. The Chesapeake watershed is a diverse landscape, rich with under-represented stories. A Chesapeake National Recreation Area would bring additional resources and capacity, technical assistance, and financial assistance to interpreting these stories at participating sites.

Additional outside investment

National parks heighten the national profile and public consciousness of any place, including one as recognized as the Chesapeake Bay. They broaden the constituency and interest beyond a local or regional scale, because they are national parks. With this comes an increased rationale for investments and commitments to enhance, restore, and conserve resources and visitor experiences associated with the park. This has played out in and around many national parks where agencies, the private sector, and philanthropists have invested in a wide range of projects. Designation of a Chesapeake National Recreation Area would bring an added focus and rationale for investing in participating sites and communities.

[1] Cullinane Thomas, C., and L. Koontz. 2020. 2019 national park visitor spending effects: Economic contributions to local communities, states, and the nation. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/EQD/NRR—2020/2110. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] U.S. Department of the Interior, Budget Justifications and Performance Information Fiscal Year 2021 National Park Service,