This week’s Daily Dirt for March 5th, the day the hula-hoop was first patented.

National Parks Add Billions to Economy

A new report suggests that America’s national parks stimulate the economy far beyond the limits of their peaks and forests. On Monday, the National Park Service confirmed that recreational attendance at the 401 units of the National Park System in 2012 resulted in $14.7 billion in spending in “gateway” communities, those within 60 miles of a park. Park visits supported 243,000 jobs and contributed $26.8 billion to our national economy.

“Our parks are economic engines for local communities,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “They support business ranging from motels and restaurants to gas stations and tour companies and, of course, the people who work in those businesses.”

Last October affirmed the economic importance of our National Parks, as the 16-day government shutdown resulted in 8 million fewer visits and a loss of $414 million in visitor spending in gateway communities.

“The sequester was a reminder of the parks’ importance to local economies,” said Jewell. “The shutdown cost the parks and nearby communities nearly half a billion dollars in visitor spending. Let’s hope we don’t ever have to go there again.”

Avalanche in Missoula

Police in Missoula, Montana have confirmed that a snowboarder triggered an avalanche last Friday that uprooted a home and left three buried in snow, later killing one. Mount Jumbo had reportedly experienced an unseasonably warm period, priming it for a slide. Sourced at the summit, the avalanche ripped through the Rattlesnake Valley Neighborhood, burying an eight-year-old boy and two adults. One of the adults, Michel Colville, died Monday morning due to injuries sustained during the avalanche.

The avalanche, which struck at speeds well over 110 mph, buried eight-year-old Phoenix Coburn, who was playing in the street with his sister. After an hour, Phoenix was found under several feet of snow between a fence and one of the homes. He remains in fair condition at the hospital. Phoenix’s sister was also hit by the avalanche but able to free herself.

Over an hour after the slide, 66-year-old Fred Allendorf, a retired professor from the University of Montana, was pulled out from his destroyed home. It was another three hours before Allendorf’s wife, Michel Colville, was discovered and rescued from a small air pocket in the debris. Unfortunately, Colville died Monday from her injuries.

Surrounding neighbors, skiers, and snowboarders in the community grabbed shovels and probes immediately after and contributed to the search efforts. Officials interviewed and later rescued a group of snowboarders above the avalanche. One snowboarder was apparently stuck in the slide and able to escape before it gathered speed.

No Bags at Boston Marathon This Year

The Boston Athletic Association has announced a “no bags policy” for the 2014 Boston Marathon to hasten security checks and promote overall safety in the wake of last year’s bombing.

While runners are banned from brining their own bags to the race, they will be given the opportunity to place a change of clothes or other personal gear in a clear plastic bag B.A.A. will provide when they pick up their race numbers near the finish line on Boston Commons.

This is just one of the new policies implemented after last year’s Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured 260.

Celebrity Athletes to March on Capitol Hill Promoting Pro-Activity Legislation

Today, one Heisman Trophy winner, Hershel Walker, and two U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists, softball pitcher Jennie Finch and swimmer Cullen Jones, will march at the 15th annual National Health Through Fitness Day in Washington D.C.

Several other prominent athletes have also joined in for the event, which promotes face-to-face discussions with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators about the importance of federal funding to support quality physical education in schools and encourage more physical activity for families by making it more affordable. PHIT America and SFIA will assemble a series of small groups featuring well known athletes, sporting goods and fitness manufacturers, physical educators, and association leaders for these discussions.