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Va. state parks set new attendance record

January 7, 2014 9:21pm

Virginia State Parks once again set a new attendance record with 8,871,822 visitors in 2013, 6 percent higher than 2012’s record attendance of 8,366,179. Virginia’s 36 state parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“In many ways outdoor recreation is weather-driven, and last year we saw the weather impact attendance,” said DCR State Parks Director Joe Elton. “Unseasonable rain in June and July kept people away from state parks, but then mild weather in the fall allowed people the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and everything state parks have to offer, from an afternoon hike to overnight stays in our cabins, lodges and campsites.”

The view from a ridge in Grayson Highlands State Park.

The view from a ridge in Grayson Highlands State Park.

Day-use attendance in 2013 also reached a record level, increasing to 7,779,790 up 7 percent from 7,264,264 in 2012.

While state parks are a convenient stop for nearby neighbors or a reasonable alternative for vacationing families and couples during difficult financial times, statewide the parks remain an economic force that affects local communities.

Virginia State Parks directly and indirectly had an economic impact of $206 million in 2013, a 4 percent increase over the previous record $198 million in 2012.

“Our state parks are popular because they promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy environment, and they stimulate outdoor recreation and tourism spending important to the health of our economy.” Elton said. “State parks help local economies generate more than $12 for every $1 of general fund money allocated to state parks in the state budget.”

Click here to see attendance figures for each state park.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?