That $96.7 million in spending supported 1,300 jobs, an increase of 300 from 2014, according to a new report from the National Park Service, Visitors to Joshua Tree National Park spent nearly $100 million in and around the park in 2015, a nearly one-third annual increase that's expected to climb again this year.
Nationwide, spending within 60 miles of national parks totaled $16.9 billion last year, an 8 percent increase from the previous year.
It's not just the tourism economy feeling the heat. The economic totals at Joshua Tree are built on the record-setting 2.025 million visitors to the park in 2015. Park superintendent David Smith said the hot trend has continued so far this year. He said park attendance is 20 percent higher in the first few months and he expects it will eclipse 2.4 million for the year.
"Joshua Tree is on fire right now for real estate," said Paul Kaplan, of the Paul Kaplan Group, a Palm Springs real estate firm that has recently located an office in the High Desert. "I'm not sure what came first, the boom in tourism or the recent increase in international exposure to Joshua Tree (National Park.)"
"So this whole sort of alternative-art-fashion-thing is really happening up there," Paisley said. "There’s a whole fashion-art-thing that’s happening up there that is pretty remarkable for the size of the community.
(Photo: James Meier/The Desert Sun)
"What’s on fire is the 400-square-foot homestead on five acres in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road. That’s what people want. That’s what’s desirable up there," Paisley said.
Kaplan agrees, adding home prices are on the march up in the High Desert, with sale prices up 30.3 percent in Joshua Tree compared to the same time last year.
"The bohemian desert lifestyle has a certain appeal to many of our clients looking for an artsy desert escape that's more remote than Palm Springs," he said.