Virginia State Parks visitation reaches record high in 2012
Virginia State Parks continues the trend of recent years with a new attendance record in 2012 of 8,366,179 visitors, an increase of 7 percent over 2011. The new record is a 4 percent increase over the previous attendance record of 8,065,558 set in 2010.
The 35 award-winning Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“This is a remarkable achievement and demonstrates that Virginians continue to love their state parks and use them during these tough economic times,” said DCR Director David A. Johnson. “I’ve visited every state park, some of them many times, and local officials repeatedly tell me how important the nearby state park is to their area. When I recently attended the dedication of the trail center at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, I was reminded of the importance and the effectiveness of collaborative relationships among state parks, Virginians and local governments.”
First Landing State Park remains the most visited state park with more than 1.5 million visitors.
Virginia State Parks directly and indirectly had an economic impact last year of $198 million, a 6 percent increase over the previous record in 2011.
“More than 2,000 jobs are created as a direct result of Virginia State Parks,” Johnson said. “Towns and communities across Virginia directly feel the impact of state parks.”
In 2012, attendance more than doubled at High Bridge Trail State Park, a linear park passing through the town of Farmville and Cumberland, Prince Edward, Nottoway and Appomattox counties. Visitation increased from 86,110 in 2011 to 188,467 in 2012.
“In a few years, this park has grown from being a decommissioned railroad bed to being a major regional attraction,” Johnson said. “Another linear park, New River Trail in Southwest Virginia, passes through Carroll, Grayson, Pulaski and Wythe counties, the city of Galax as well as the towns of Pulaski and Fries. The park attracted more than a million visitors, from numerous other states. There are many state park visitors spending lots of time and money in regions of Virginia hit hardest by the downturn in the economy.”
Overnight attendance in state parks also set a record with 1,101,915 visitors, a 4 percent increase over 2011, the previous record year.
“I am extremely proud of the exceptional work our staff does each year in hosting record numbers of visitors and overnight guests,” said DCR State Parks Director Joe Elton. “Our record year also saw a record storm – the Derecho – hit Virginia the last weekend of June. Twelve parks were impacted by that storm, and Douthat State Park was closed through July 4. Despite the damage coming during one of our busiest weeks of the year, during our busiest year ever, our staff worked tirelessly to get the parks back open and minimize impact on our guests.
“People love the outdoors, and they love state parks,” Elton said. “When we invest time in everything that our state parks have to offer, from hiking trails, festivals and concerts to playgrounds, camping and cabins, our state and our society reap the benefits of more healthy and happy children and families.”