By Stephanie Kaye
This year's National Cherry Blossom Festival will bring an estimated $126 million from visitors. But the exact costs are unknown.
Dr. Margaret Daniels specializes in tourism and commerce at George Mason University. Working with the National Park Service, she's found the region takes in about $3 billion each year, thanks to visitors coming to see the National Mall and Memorial Parks. About $126 million of that is generated during the three weeks of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
"This is the largest festival that's held in a parkland facility in the country," says Daniels.
But the cost of those blossoms and the visitors they attract has yet to be calculated.
"The costs are not only in terms of maintenance. It's increased congestion, increased pollution, people not being able to get to work just trying to get around the tidal basin!," she says.
The National Park Service says it spends $1 million a year in maintenance alone, employing a special "tree crew" of about a dozen workers.