New Economic Impact Study Finds San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Generates Significant Returns to Local Economy

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 11, 2011
Contact:   Perry Wheeler, National Parks Conservation Association, P:(301) 675-8766 or pwheeler@npca.org


New Economic Impact Study Finds San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Generates Significant Returns to Local Economy

San Antonio, TX – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today released a new study that finds San Antonio Missions National Historical Park generates significant economic benefits for its surrounding communities. Conducted by the University of Texas at San Antonio and released with support from Bexar County, Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions NHP, and Western National Parks Association, the economic study also finds that moving forward with or completing key initiatives could better protect historic resources and fill interpretive gaps at San Antonio Missions and more than double the park’s economic impact by 2016 – the National Park Service centennial. Later today, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on National Parks will hold a hearing on legislation to authorize the study of a boundary expansion at the park – a key step toward implementing the initiatives explored in the economic assessment.

“The San Antonio Missions economic impact study helps illuminate the tremendous benefits that this world-class resource provides for the surrounding community in San Antonio,” said NPCA Texas Regional Director Suzanne Dixon. “The missions deserve additional investment, both to complete the park’s story for our children and grandchildren and to continue the economic revitalization of southern San Antonio.”

The economic study finds that every federal dollar invested in the park in 2009 generated approximately $20 in local economic activity. In 2009, the National Park Service invested $4.8 million operating and maintaining San Antonio Missions NHP. Those funds leveraged more than $3.4 million additional investment from local partner organizations, supporting 1,116 local jobs and $98.8 million in economic activity throughout the surrounding region, including Bexar and Wilson counties.

According to the assessment, several new initiatives could better preserve the park’s historic resources and make it more accessible to visitors, while increasing the economic impact on surrounding communities. If enacted, these initiatives are projected to support approximately 2,335 jobs and $214.5 million in economic activity throughout the San Antonio region in 2016 – more than double the current impact. The seven initiatives include:

• Bringing park operations funding up to a level that allows the park to provide a top-notch visitor experience, while maintaining the rich cultural treasures entrusted to its care.
• Connecting the missions to the nearby San Antonio River via trails, exhibits and art spaces that focus on aspects of the missions’ story.
• Developing new cultural demonstrations at Mission San José, through which park staff and volunteers create hands-on experiences that take visitors back in time to explore the native and Spanish customs   that blended to create today’s Tejano culture.
• Building a new park headquarters and expanding the restored landscape around Mission San José to better connect Mission San José and the San Antonio River.
• Creating a demonstration farm at Mission San Juan, using the rehabilitated acequia system (irrigation network). The farm would enable the park to interpret the role of agriculture in mission life, and create hands-on learning experiences for visitors and community members.
• Expanding park boundaries to add farm fields, the San Juan dam and other lands integral to the missions – enabling the park to better protect historic resources. Legislation is currently pending in Congress to study specific areas for potential inclusion in the park, which would acquire lands from willing sellers and public agencies. The Senate Subcommittee on National Parks will hold a hearing on this legislation today.
• Opening Rancho de las Cabras, the historic ranch that provided livestock to feed Mission Espada. The ruins were donated to the park in 1995, and under this initiative visitors will be able to tour the site to learn about ranching in Texas, the roots of the American cowboy culture and the role of ranchos in supporting the missions.

Since San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established in 1984, visitation has increased by approximately 750 percent. In 2009, the park hosted over 1.7 million visitors – 80 percent of whom were from outside the San Antonio region. Despite the growing popularity of the missions, the park operates with funding and staffing shortfalls that are not sustainable – relying heavily on the help of local partner organizations and volunteers. Across the country, national parks support 267,000 private-sector jobs and $13.3 billion of economic activity nationwide, but face an annual operations shortfall of more than $600 million and a maintenance backlog that is now almost $11 billion.  Without the necessary funding, it will be difficult for the park to implement these initiatives.

“San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is an economic and cultural anchor for San Antonio and its southside neighborhoods,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. “As the whole community turns its attention to restoring the river and revitalizing this part of San Antonio, we stand at a confluence of opportunities. With continued investment and support, the park stands to become an ever-more integral part of San Antonio’s economic fabric.”

San Antonio Missions NHP shares a deep connection with its surrounding communities, and has made it a priority to engage new and diverse audiences. The aforementioned initiatives would allow the park to tell a more complete story and better engage both out-of-town visitors and locals around its history and cultural resources. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration released its America’s Great Outdoors report that points to urban parks as catalysts for reinvigorating local communities and economies. By enacting these key initiatives and increasing visitor engagement, San Antonio Missions could serve as a model for urban community connections to local national parks.

“The future of south San Antonio’s businesses is closely linked to the kind of community we build today through our efforts to revitalize the southside,” stated South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Taylor. “Along with the river, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is the backbone for quality of life in the region. Investing in the park will help strengthen the economic environment and create more opportunities for local businesses to serve the park and its visitors.”

A public report, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Impact and Opportunity, summarizes the economic impact study findings and sets forth a strategic vision for the park. For more information or to download the report, please visit: http://www.npca.org/missions_economic_impact.

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