By Ryan Cornell
Communities surrounding the Shenandoah National Park lost $8.9 million in visitor spending last October, according to a report recently released by the National Park Service.
That figure is the eighth highest loss in park-related visitor spending among gateway regions, which the report identifies as communities within 60 miles of a national park.
Shenandoah National Park averaged 251,887 visitors and $16.1 million in visitor spending each October between 2010 and 2012.
Last October, in a month marked by the 16-day government shutdown, park visitors totaled 112,754 and spent $7.2 million in local communities.
Karen Beck-Herzog, public affairs officer for the park, said between $400,000 and $500,000 was lost in park revenue from entrance station and campground fees. She said 80 percent of the revenue would have stayed in the park to be used for visitor-related projects and maintenance work.
Companies contracted to operate park services also suffered during the shutdown.
Delaware North Companies, which runs the park's restaurants, lodging and retail shops, lost $2.4 million during the shutdown, a portion of which would have stayed in the park.
The Shenandoah National Park Association is a nonprofit organization that supports interpretive and educational activities in the park through the sales of books, maps and videos. During the shutdown, it lost about $76,000.
Park staff was kept busy this week, clearing snow off Skyline Drive so that a portion of it could open Thursday.
Beck-Herzog said this winter's weather hasn't closed Skyline Drive for as long as in 2010, though the alternating snowstorms and warm days have created complications.
"Here, we would close and get things open and get things closed again," she said.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org