Letter to the Editor - State Parks pay dividends

Dear Editor, 

Remember the total eclipse this past summer? I still have my solar glasses around here somewhere. That eclipse turned out to be a major boon for Missouri tourism. 

Some towns had more visitors than residents on Aug. 21! Hotels, Parks and campsites were “sold out” due to unparalleled numbers of visitors, all to observe about two minutes of near-darkness at the height of day! 

 I have not seen any figures about the impact the eclipse had on Missouri Parks. The number of visitors to our Parks had already hit an all-time record 20 million people in 2016 before the eclipse happened.

A recent study found that visitors to our state parks produced an overall positive economic impact of $1.02 billion. Economic impact is measured by the net change in state and local communities that results from the spending of visitors while at our sites. Visitors’ expenditures produced an estimated $123 million in federal, state and local taxes and supported 14,535 jobs.

For every dollar spent by Missouri State Parks to operate the system, Missouri’s economy saw a $26 return on investment. These impacts show that Missouri Parks enhance our state’s economy as well as improve visitor’s health and well-being. 

Missouri has expanded our Park system at the same time other states have been closing or even selling their state parks. Our Department of Natural Resources recently acquired three new parks. One of them is in Reynolds/Iron Counties on Proffit Mountain. This land shares a boundary with Taum Sauk Mountain, a jewel of our Missouri Park System. Taum Sauk saw a whopping 32 percent increase in visitors from 2015 to 2016! The new park, once developed, is likely to pay off huge dividends for a lot of years to come. 

I was disheartened to read in this week’s Mountain Echo that Republican candidate for Representative, Christina Dinkins, favors selling the newly acquired park land. But why? The park belongs to all of us now. And what’s the alternative? That it be chopped up into little lots with “Keep Out” signs all over? That would be too bad.

The next total solar eclipse visible from North America will be April 8, 2024 and believe it or not, we are in the path of totality again! My hope is that I will still be around then, still have my solar glasses and I can watch it from our new park on top of Proffit Mountain.

Roxanne Parker