WACO, Texas — New data from the National Park Service shows its parks contributed more than half a billion dollars to the Texas economy in 2021.
According to NPS, Texas national parks contributed about $578 million dollars to the state economy and resulted in more than 5,400 jobs, both new records for the state.
One of the 16 national parks in Texas, the Waco Mammoth National Monument, contributed more than $7 million in total to the local economy and resulted in 76 area jobs, according to NPS.
The mammoth monument saw about 81,000 visitors in 2021, nearing pre-pandemic levels.
"There are people that do nothing but go from national park to national park, and we get the benefit of people who just love to do that type of tourism," said Carla Pendergraft, assistant director of tourism for the city of Waco.
Justin Bates, superintendent of the Waco Mammoth National Monument, said he anticipates even more growth for the park in the future.
"We see our visitation continuing to increase, continuing to take advantage of all of that energy and enthusiasm of people wanting to come to the city and spend time here," Bates said.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told 25 News it has seen a major spike in the number of visitors at state parks since the pandemic. 9.9 million people visited state parks during fiscal year 2021, the most that have ever visited them in Texas history.
Outdoor attractions in Waco suffered less from the pandemic, according to Pendergraft.
"In general, people during the pandemic were more comfortable being outside, and so they saw not quite as much of a dip as some of the other attractions, which were completely closed," she said.
To view the full economic impact of national parks in Texas, visit the National Park Service website.