Press Release Apr 22, 2015

New Report Highlights Economic Value and Quality of Life Benefits of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

NPCA releases report that highlights Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area's major contributions to local communities.

As we celebrate Earth Day, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is hosting events today in Andover, New Jersey and Shawnee on Delaware in Pennsylvania to release a report highlighting Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area’s major contributions to a five-county region. The report also outlines the challenges and opportunities to maintain and enhance those values.

The report, Making Connections: Investing in a Vibrant Economic Future in the Region at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, analyzes the park’s economic impacts and quality of life benefits in Sussex and Warren counties in New Jersey and in Monroe, Northampton and Pike counties in Pennsylvania. Highlights include the park’s central role in the area’s economic health and quality of life, the value of volunteerism and community partnerships, challenges like improving collaboration across state lines and conserving the natural benefits that the park anchors, and suggestions to meet those needs.

“Delaware Water Gap generates remarkable economic and natural values,” said Joy M. Oakes, Senior Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Working together to strengthen existing partnerships and to create new alliances to benefit the park and the community can help promote clean water, minimize flooding, protect fish and wildlife, maintain adequate water flows, and attract development compatible with the park’s character.”

The park observes its 50th anniversary this year, and the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, inviting reflection on the past and a focus on the future.

“The park connects to a larger system with critical economic and ecological significance,” said Oakes. “With more than 15 million people – including New York City and Philadelphia residents – tapping the Delaware River for their drinking water, the park’s natural resources are equally as valuable as its economic impacts.” As part of America’s National Park System, Delaware Water Gap routinely welcomes more than four million visitors annually from all over the world.

“As this region draws more visitors, we will need to work harder to keep what made this area so attractive from the beginning,” said Carl Wilgus, President and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. “We can do a lot more collaboratively across state lines to promote both economic development and resource preservation. When it comes to man versus nature, both sides can win.”

Key report findings include:

  • The national park’s total economic impact supports 2,232 local jobs, $219 million in sales at local businesses, and $97 million in local wages and salaries.
  • Every federal dollar invested into the park generates $24 in sales at local businesses.
  • Volunteer efforts in every area of park operations add up to the equivalent of 53 full-time employees, efforts valued at $2.6 million.
  • The ecosystem services (like pollution filters, flood control, excellent fish and wildlife habitat, carbon storage) provided by the park’s wetlands, forests, and other natural areas would cost over $159 million each year to replace, if it even were possible to replace these natural benefits.

“People visit our area, and many of us live here, to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. We like the rural nature of this area, the beauty of our landscapes, the abundance of trails, the river and the environment,” said Tammie Horsfield, President of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce in Newton, New Jersey. “The park is an important part of that. The region could benefit economically from greater collaboration on projects including more access, improved trail maintenance and construction projects, signage, and working together to market this wonderful resource.”

The report’s findings were informed by community roundtable events with dozens of community leaders in New Jersey and Pennsylvania during the summer and fall of 2014. Multiple interviews were conducted with area stakeholders, and data from the National Park Service, universities, and local and state agencies informed the report’s findings. Recommendations include creating an advocacy network to address opportunities and needs related to the park and its neighbors such as securing sufficient federal funds for national park operations and maintaining park roads, and providing incentives for willing private landowners to implement projects to promote forest and streamside health improvements for the watershed.

“Actions we take today can shape the park and the region for the next 50 years,” said Oakes. “From townships to the halls of Congress, decision makers at all levels of government can influence the future of this extraordinary national park and the region it anchors. We look forward to our work with local leaders to ensure a bright future for this park and its community neighbors.”

Learn more at www.npca.org/watergapreport.

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About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.