OUTDOORS Big money in Big Thicket
The biological crossroads at Big Thicket National Preserve is bringing big money to Southeast Texas, according a new report.
Visitors taking advantage of the preserve’s diverse ecology and fertile hunting grounds spent more than $14 million in 2018, a report from the National Park Service found. That spending supported 181 local jobs, the report said, and it’s part of a national trend.
“The preserve highlights the national importance of the diverse ecology found here in Southeast Texas, to all that explore its 15 unique units,” Big Thicket Superintendent Wayne Prokopetz said in a statement. “National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy. With the support of our park partners, we are proud to be a part of the Southeast Texas community.”
Encompassing more than 113,000 acres and spanning seven counties in Southeast Texas, the Big Thicket is a transition zone between four distinct vegetation types: the moist eastern hardwood forest, the southwestern desert, the southeastern swamp and the central prairies.
Mike Boone helps protect the preserve as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden in Hardin County. He said it’s busiest during hunting season, attracting visitors as a public area free from the influence of large logging companies.
“It’s a piece of property that’s basically untouched, and people like that,” Boone said.
The report, conducted by two economists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service, pointed to lodging and restaurant expenses as the primary sources of spending. It said more than 220,000 people visited Big Thicket in 2018.
Nationwide, 318 million park visitors contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the report.
“Big Thicket National Preserve is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” Prokopetz said. “We strive to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides with everyone who visits.”