Study: Mammoth Cave pumps $62 million into area

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MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky. (AP) -- A National Park Service study shows that Mammoth Cave National Park pumps $62 million a year into south-central Kentucky's economy.

The study based its finding on an average of 500,000 visitors a year, how much those visitors spend, the jobs they support and the ripple effect of those jobs in the economy.

Visitors in 2010 generated nearly 85,000 motel nights, estimates show, with more than $32 million in spending. That spending supports 525 jobs, with an income of about $11 million, and those employees spend an additional $19 million in the region.

Park Superintendent Pat Reed told The Daily News that the study affirms Mammoth Cave's impact on the area (http://bit.ly/wdcvHe ).

"Roughly, with our budget ($8 million), every tax dollar spent generates about $8 in the local economy," Reed said. "That is very substantial. The national average ... return was about 4-to-1. It shows not only is it the right thing to do to protect our national park from an environmental standpoint, but from a business standpoint, it makes good business sense."

According to the study, national parks in 2010 saw visitors spend $12.1 billion within 60 miles of the park, with about 56 percent of the money being spent outside the park for lodging, food, gas, other amusements and retail purchases. The value-added or ripple effect of that spending accounted for another $16.6 billion.

Reed said he expects the economic influence will continue to grow when the second phase of the visitors center is complete. The center will have a cave museum that will feature some of the thousands of cave artifacts that have been amassed, as well as rotating traveling exhibits. It will be a way for people who might not be able to access the cave to get a feel for it.

Vickie Carson, public information officer for the park, expects that the museum itself will be a draw. Carson said other attractions in the area use Mammoth Cave National Park as a draw for their venues.

"Caveland Marketing, tourism people in Hart, Barren and Edmonson counties, all use Mammoth Cave in their advertising," Carson said.

The cave region in 2010 contributed more than $514 million to the state's economy.

"Mammoth Cave pretty much serves as the anchor to get people here," said Greg Davis, president of Caveland Marketing Association.

Davis is also the manager of the Mammoth Cave Hotel, operated by Forever Resorts.

"We are here to help serve national park visitors," he said.

The park is considering improvements to the hotel, which probably would be funded through some type of public-private partnership with a concessionaire such as Forever Resorts.

Reed said the park service is still working out the details of improvements and expects to present a preferred alternative to an advisory board sometime in July. He also expects that an improved hotel would be an additional draw for park visitors.

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Information from: Daily News, http://www.bgdailynews.com