In Chapters 1-5, we have presented extensive material related to the direct economic impact of springs-based parks on the local economies in which they exist. In this final chapter, we shall summarize this information so the reader can compare the relative results for the four spring-related state parks in Florida. This sample of such parks was determined by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to be, in their opinion, representative of the nearly 70 percent springs-related state parks in Florida. We shall compare and contrast the estimated direct economic impact of the sample of four springs. Hopefully, this study will aid park management in evaluating the economic impact of other parks in Florida. We have also pointed out various situations that need further examination such as the static nature of attendance at Blue Spring State Park and the role of the environment (e.g., habitat for the manatee) in influencing the economic prosperity of a local area (i.e., state parks as a leading economic indicator of the development of the local economy). We also think that the Division of Recreation and Parks can use this report to better analyze how the park system serves the patrons and how much the park system adds to the local economy. Our analysis of attendance trends and seasonal behavior of attendance can be a management tool to evaluate where the parks have been, and to project future attendance so that planning may be implemented for facilities and services.
Comparison and Contrast
In Table 6.1, we have pulled together some of the prominent statistics that were developed in previous chapters. For 2002, estimated spending by visitors at the four springs-related state parks varied from nearly $23 million at Ichetucknee Springs in Suwannee County to only $10 million at Blue Spring. It is important to note that this is spending by visitors who live outside the economic area of economic impact. This kind of spending is an export industry that drives the local economy. Residents of the area not only benefit from having the park for their enjoyment, but also benefit by having visitors contribute to job creation in their area. Local resident spending is the result of this impact and not the impetus. This is true since bringing money into the local economy by selling good or providing services to tourists results in eventual multiplier effects which support income received by local residents. They, in turn, spend some of this money on attending the park. Of further interest, Table 6.1 shows that Ichetucknee Springs and Wakulla Springs have approximately the same level of spending at about $22 million and have about the same total attendance. However, Ichetucknee Springs has about one-third more estimated visitors (i.e., from outside the area) than Wakulla Springs as shown in the bottom of Table 6.1. As measured by spending per party and per person day, Wakulla Springs visitors spend much more than those visiting Ichetucknee Springs which account for the parity in overall spending between the two parks (e.g., spending per person day is $89 in Wakulla Springs compared to only $34 in Ichetucknee Springs). This is shown near the top of Table 6.1. We do not know why there is such a difference in spending. One working hypothesis may be found in the nature of the two springs-related parks. Ichetucknee Springs appeals to those desiring tubing down the river while Wakulla Springs is more “up-scale” with a grand lodge, an outstanding restaurant and glass bottom boats set against the history of being part of the Tarzan and Creature
A Summary of the Direct Economic Impact of
Ichetucknee; Wakulla; Homosassa and Blue
Springs State Parks on the Local Economy, 2002
Average Per Spring
Spending Expenditures (Mil $)
Spend Per Party Day ($)
Spend Per Person Day ($)
Spending (Mil $)
Hotel & Motel
Spending by Category (Mil $)
Wages & Salaries (Mil $)
Length of Stay
Percent Visitors (%)
from the Black Lagoon traditions. Homosassa and Blue Spring are at the lower end of the total spending estimates with $13.6 million and $10 million respectively in 2002. These parks are more heavily attended by visitors as shown in the bottom of Table 6.1. But, here again, the spending per visitor party and per person day is relatively low for these two parks. In our sample of parks, Blue Spring exhibited the lowest spending per visitor, which was directly responsible for its relatively low economic impact (i.e., $10 million). Another working hypothesis is that springs located in relatively rural areas (e.g., Wakulla Springs) and immersed in varied natural resources may be more appealing to more affluent visitors wishing to spend more time in the area. In urbanized areas such as Blue Spring just a short distance from Orlando and Daytona Beach may attract a vast cross-section of tourists willing to spend only a fraction of their time in this area while in Florida. If the four springs this study are representative of other springs in Florida, it would appear that visitors spend a little over $17 million at the “typical spring” as shown in the simple average column of Table 6.1. Spring visitors average about $194 per party and about $46 per person day. The reader should remember the $46 per person day since it will be compared to an ad hoc study done by Gregory (2002) discussed below.
Among the accommodation modes and day visitors in Table 6.1, spending varied greatly. For example, the simple average of spending by those visitors using hotels and motels was more than $7.6 million which was only about one-half of that spent at Wakulla Springs with the $15.3 million in spending, mostly at the lodge and restaurant we suspect (i.e., sample respondents were not asked at what hotel or motel they stayed). Overwhelmingly, most of the spending by mode was done on hotels and motels or with friends and family (i.e., 77% of the total for all modes/day visitors). This does indicate that visitors to springs use friends and family as a mode of accommodation. Even though the hotels and motels do not benefit from this group, other merchants in the area do.
In Table 6.1, we see a breakdown of spending by visitors. This varies considerably from spring to spring. Out of the eight categories, lodging, restaurants, admission fees and shopping constitute about two-thirds of all spending. Spending on these categories has a varied impact in terms of creating wages and employment. For example, restaurants are a very labor-intensive industry. This greatly contrasts with shopping where only a sales clerk is needed. The reason we mention this is that the economic impact of spending as measured by wages and employment will vary depending on how labor-intensive the pattern of spending happens to be. Also, how much is spent on each category is an important factor as well.
In terms of wages and salaries, Ichetucknee Springs generated the most wages as might be expected since spending was highest among this spring. Generally, the generation of wages was positively related to spending as the reader can see from Table 6.1. Note that employment generated by this spending from spring to spring generally followed this pattern, but more employment was generated in Wakulla Springs (i.e., 347) than in Ichetucknee (i.e., 311) due to spending pattern in the former being more labor intensive than the latter (e.g., lodging is very labor intensive with a restaurant, etc).
In general, springs exhibited visitors that had a party size of between 4-5 individuals and spending about 2-3 days as shown in the simple average column in Table 6.1.
Finally, the typical spring-related park in this study had more than 243 thousand visitors of which 172 thousand or about 70 percent of all visitors are from the outside of the area. In terms of important ratios that could be used to extrapolate to other springs, using the data in Table 6.1, there is one job created by $65,865 of spending by visitors from outside the area of economic impact. Or, $1 million in spending would create about 15.2 jobs based upon our sample of parks. Wages average about 22% of all spending. That is, $1 million in spring-related spending would create $220,000 in wages and salaries. The annual wage rate per employee in the visitor sector was be about $14,474 or $220,000 divided by 15.2. Thus, if we knew the attendance for a particular spring, all we would need to know would be what percent of the attendees are from out of the area of economic impact. A sampling of license plates in the parking lot might be a rough indicator of what percent are from outside a particular county. However, the use of such “averages” may obscure differences between springs as explained and shown below.
How much have we learned from the study of these four springs? It has raised some important policy questions, but has yielded a database that could be used by the Division of Recreation and Parks, DEP. Gregory (2002) of the DEP puts out estimates of the total direct economic impact of all of the parks in the Florida system. He uses attendance, expenditures per person day and a ratio of jobs to spending. This can be compared with our very specific study of four springs to see how close Gregory’s study comes to on-site sampling. Of interest, he uses the same spending per person-day and jobs per $1 million in total spending among all parks in the system. He uses spending per person-day of $42.20 and employment generated per $1 million in spending of 20 jobs. Of great interest, with our on-site sample using just four springs in Florida, we find that the simple average of spending per person-day is $ 45.50. Spending at the $1 million level would create a little over 15 jobs. Thus, it would appear that this study comes strikingly close to those ratios used by Gregory (2002). He estimates out of area visitors represent 65% of all total park visitors, which is close to our finding of about 70%. Total spending between the two studies can be compared as follows:
Springs StudySpending (Mil $)Employment
Bell & Bonn (2003)
Ichetucknee 22.7 311
Wakulla 22.2 347
Homosassa 13.6 206
Blue 10.0 174
Ichetucknee 7.4 160
Wakulla 4.9 150
Homosassa 7.3 184
Blue 9.2 194
By looking at the statistics, it is apparent that using overall averages may miss great individual variations at any site such as spending per party; size of the party or length of stay. Given that the sampling is done properly, it is apparent that on-site studies may be more accurate since variations in parameters may be great from spring to spring (see Table 6.1). Spending numbers from the Gregory study are lower since he limited all visitors to one day in the area. The Bonn and Bell (2003) study counted alldays visitors stayed in the area because of the importance the springs had upon their trip purpose. This means that one cannot apply the average of the four springs in this study to other springs not studied in order to estimate the economic impact on an area. This is because there is too much variance in spending per party; size of the party and number of days spent in the area based upon the findings from this study. As we saw in the trend and seasonal analysis of attendance data, there is too much variation from spring to spring. Of course, each spring is so unique and has different factors that attract visitors. This completes our summary of our spring studies and the discussion of our results. We have also compared our study to the approximation used by the Division of Recreation and Parks, Department of Environmental Protection.
Scott, T. M., P. G. #99, Means, G. H., Means, R. C., and Meegan, R. P., 2002. First Magnitude Springs of Florida – Open File Report No. 85: Florida Geological Survey.
Rosenau, J. C., Faulkner, G. L., Hendry, C. W., Jr., and Hull, R. W., 1977. Springs of Florida: Florida Geological Survey Bulletin 31 Revised.
Bonn, Mark A. and Frederick W. Bell, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT POTENTIALTHROUGH 2015 FOR THE SUWANNEE RIVER COUNTIES IN FLORIDA, Report for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Suwannee River Water Management District, Florida States University, College of Business and Department of Economics, November 7, 2002.
Environment of Florida Keys/Florida Bay – Nonmarket Economic User Values of the Florida Keys/Key West.” Strategic Environmental Assessment Division, NOAA and Outdoor Recreation Assessment Group, USDA-Forest Service, respectively, October, 1997.
Linley, Tom, Park Manager, Homosassa Springs, Personal Correspondence, 2003.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Census of Business, Washington, D.C. 1997.
Appendix A: Florida Springs Visitor Survey 2003
Appendix B: Ichetucknee Springs Visitor Study 2003
Appendix C: Wakulla Springs Visitor Study 2003
Appendix D: Homosassa Springs Visitor Study 2003
Appendix E: Blue Springs Visitor Study 2003
Appendix F: Springs Visitor Study Overall
Appendix A: Florida Springs Visitor Survey
Q01 Date: ______________________
Q02 Site (circle one): WS IS HS VB
Q03 Gender: 1=Male 2=Female
What is your:
Q04 City: ______________________
Q05 County: ____________________
Q06 State: ______ Country: _______
Q07 Zip Code: __________________
Q08 What best describe your reason for today’s visit? _________________
Q09 Number of nights spent in the area during this trip: __________
4= Post Graduate Degree
Q29 Total Household Income:
1=Under $20,000 2=$20,000-49,999
Q30 Marital Status:
1=Married 2=Single 3=Widowed/Divorced
Q31 How much more would you be willing to spend on the entrance fee for each visit if you knew the money would go to the maintenance and protection of this natural spring? $________