Government shutdown cost Philadelphia-area national parks millions in visitor spending

Park ranger Terry Papavasilis puts up a sign informing visitors that the Independence Visitor Center was closed due to the federal government shutdown on Oct. 1, 2013. (Colin Kerrigan /

October's partial federal government shutdown cost the Philadelphia region more than $9 million in lost spending from visitors to the area's national parks.

A National Park Service report issued this week says the lack of visitors to Independence and Valley Forge national historical parks during the two-week shutdown led to a combined loss of $9.7 million in visitor spending in the region.

Independence National Historical Park saw just more than 166,000 visitors in October, when the park reopened after the shutdown that lasted from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16.

That's a 45-percent drop from an average of nearly 302,000 October visitors between 2010 and 2012. That decline in visitors resulted in an estimated $7.4 million drop in spending in the region, the report says.

October visitors to the park typically spend about $16.5 million in the Philadelphia community, but October 2013 spending was estimated at just $9.1 million.

At Valley Forge, October visitors dropped to about 80,000, down 35 percent from the average of 123,000 from the previous three years.

That drop led to a $2.3-million loss in visitor spending, the report says.

Independence National Historical Park includes some of the Philadelphia region's key tourist attractions, such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The shutdown left thousands of tourists who traveled from across the country and world to Independence Mall and Valley Forge disappointed.

Overall, the Interior Department says the shutdown led to 7.88 million fewer visits to national parks nationwide, resulting in a total loss in visitor spending in those communities of at least $414 million.

Pennsylvania was one of the states with the steepest declines in Park Service-related spending, losing out on more than $15 million during the shutdown. 

Three Pennsylvania sites -- Independence National Historical Park, Valley Forge and Gettysburg National Military Park -- were among the 45 parks nationwide that experienced visitor-spending losses of more than $2 million, the report says.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or Follow @phillynews on Twitter.