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Posted In: Environment

Record Attendance for Virginia State Parks in 2016

Phil Riggan

January 19, 2017 7:22am
First Day Hike at Pocahontas State Park, Jan. 1, 2017.

First Day Hike at Pocahontas State Park, Jan. 1, 2017.

A record number of visitors at Virginia State Parks in 2016 means that we’ve got a good thing going in the Commonwealth. Higher visitation translates to higher revenues and more respect for tourism in Virginia.

Locally, Pocahontas State Park saw an overall increase of 306,354 visitors, from 1,142,601 visitors in 2015 to 1,448,955 in 2016, according to a release. Powhatan State Park improved 10,887 visitors, from 61,996 in 2015 to 72,883 in 2016.

Read more in the official press release from the Governor’s office:

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Virginia State Parks attendance in 2016 hit a record-high 10,022,698 visitors, which was a 12 percent increase over 2015. Virginia State Parks, managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), hosted more than 1 million overnight visitors in cabins and campgrounds in 2016, an increase of nearly 3 percent over 2015.

“Virginia’s state park system is the best in the country, and more Virginians and visitors are taking advantage than ever before,” said Governor McAuliffe. “State Parks are a vital part of communities large and small, attracting visitors to the region and generating substantial tourism revenue that directly benefits our local economies. From opening Natural Bridge State Park to making historic investments in the Virginia Treasures Program, this administration has worked hard to protect and expand opportunities to interact with the countless natural and historic attractions our Commonwealth has to offer. I want to thank the staff at the Department of Conservation and Recreation for their hard work making our state park system a world-class asset for the people of Virginia.”

“When attendance increases, so does the economic impact of the state park system,” said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman. “Visitors spend money in the parks, in local communities and traveling to and from parks. Our 37 state parks have an impact of more than $222 million on Virginia’s economy.”

“Multiple factors contributed to our new attendance record, overall good weather, lower gas prices and the year-long celebration of our 80th anniversary,” said Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver. “Last year, a record-high 548,398 people attended our ranger-led environmental and historic programs, an increase of 23 percent over 2015. So there’s no single cause we can point to as a reason for the increases. It’s obvious that more people find value spending time in a Virginia State Park.”

The addition of Natural Bridge State Park, which is in Rockbridge County, accounted for 45,869 visitors since DCR assumed management on September 24, 2016. The increases also came despite the fact that several parks in the Tidewater and Northern Neck regions were closed for weeks because of hurricanes. The storms negatively affected their visitation, overnight attendance and revenue.


About Phil Riggan

He's been a part of Richmond's outdoors since moving to Richmond in 1988. Earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning at VCU in 2015 with a focus on the environment, parks, transportation and nonprofits — largely due to his dedication to becoming part of the solution to advocate for outdoor initiatives, the James River and Richmond’s great parks and recreational amenities. Now works as a transportation planner with the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization, focusing primarily on bike/ped planning.