BOWLING GREEN -- Visitors to Mammoth Cave National Park spent $45 million last year, helping support nearly 600 local jobs and generate $61.6 million into nearby economies, according to a new National Park Service report.

"It's always just good to see how the park is affecting the local community," said Molly Schroer, spokeswoman for Mammoth Cave National Park.

And the nearby communities also give back to the park. "We benefit from them. They can provide a lot of things that we can't," Schroer said.

Mammoth Cave sits within Edmonson, Hart and Barren counties. Lodging expenses, restaurants and nearby recreation industries create economic activity in these "gateway" communities, which include Brownsville, Horse Cave, Cave City, Park City and Bowling Green.

Park tourism varies year to year. Annually, the park attracts 500,000 people from around the globe.

There were higher numbers in the past two years for the 2017 solar eclipse and for the 2016 celebration of the National Park Service centennial - the latter helped provide $68 million in economic output, nearly $50 million in visitor spending and 764 jobs.

Thus far this year, visitation numbers have been down due to the government shutdown, which closed the park for about four weeks in January. But Schroer expressed optimism for the park's ability to "bounce back."

"We're looking forward to a good year to come," Schroer said.

For the full report, which was authored by economists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service, visit nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm.

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