By Steve Urbon
March 04, 2014 12:21 AM
NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is an $18 million economic boost for the SouthCoast, the National Park Service said Monday.
The figure is part of a report on national parks nationwide, using statistics from 2012.
The impact of Massachusetts’ national parks is $503 million, said the Park Service. Nationwide the figure was put at $14.7 billion.
To calculate visitor spending, the Park Service tallied camping fees, restaurants and bars, groceries and takeout food, gas and oil, local transportation, admissions and fees, and souvenirs and other expenses.
The Whaling National Historical Park counted 269,885 visitors in 2012 and calculated total visitor spending at $13.3 million and the support of 193 jobs.
Added to that is the business-to-business economy that’s not directly connected to visitor spending.
Derek Santos, the city’s acting director of economic development and a former seven-year national park employee, said that the National Park Service is meticulous, transparent and even a bit conservative about its data collection and economic totals.
And while he had not seen the report as of Monday afternoon, he said that the park is one of the biggest selling points that his agency has in trying to attract investors.
“One of the things that we always focus on is what are the assets that give us a competitive advantage,” Santos told The Standard-Times.
“One is the fantastic working waterfront, with fishing, cargo, and offshore wind,” he said.
“Another huge asset is the downtown with its national park, the only national park in America telling the story of the American whaling industry,” he said.
Third is the UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts, he said. That completes a partnership for arts, culture and cultural tourism, which Santos said is a large portion of the local economy, more so than the entire state, which ranks high in the nation to begin with.
Every tour that his office conducts starts downtown at the national park. “It dispels the myths,” he said. “It immediately gives you a taste for the SouthCoast.”
The park’s presence, Santos said, underpins the city’s downtown economy. “The downtown has to be strong and vibrant. We are blessed with this asset. It’s a big deal.”
By Steve Urbon