BY M. SCOTT MORRIS
Aside from gas money, there's no charge to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville to Natchez and back again.
Still, research shows travelers along the Trace accounted for an estimated $140,357,480 in 2001 for Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.
Officials with the Natchez Trace Parkway break the numbers down this way:
– $99,629,820 for Mississippi
– $20,678,400 for Alabama
– $20,049,260 for Tennessee
But where did the Trace get those numbers?
Anyone with a fear of math may stop reading now. For everyone else Jerry Pendleton, management analyst for the Natchez Trace Parkway, provided a step-by-step guide to the process. The example will focus on Mississippi.
“We regularly have traffic counters throughout the state,” Pendleton said. “In Mississippi, we have them placed at four locations.”
The count for 2001 resulted in 5,534,994 vehicles. Generally, the National Park Service estimates 40 percent of those are tourists.
For this study, officials assumed 10 percent were tourists to account for the fact some vehicles could have been counted more than once.
That results in 553,499 vehicles.
The Mississippi Department of Tourism and Development estimates every two people who travel to Mississippi spend an average of $180. The National Park Service estimates there are 2.3 people in each vehicle.
“I didn't worry about the third of a person,” Pendleton said. “I just assumed each car had two people.”
So, 553,499 multiplied by $180 results in $99,629,820 for Mississippi in 2001 – all courtesy of visitors along the Natchez Trace Parkway.