Revitalized park system welcomed 60 million-plus visitors last year, continuing an upward trend; overnight camping stays highest on record
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) announced Wednesday that more than 60.1 million people visited state parks and historic sites in 2013, and campgrounds had their busiest year on record, as dozens of parks across the state undergo improvements thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "New York Works" initiative.
Visitation topped 60 million for the second year in a row despite the fact some of state's most popular parks were temporarily closed for repairs due to "Superstorm" Sandy.
"New York state parks and historic sites are an anchor of our tourism economy, and the latest park attendance numbers demonstrate Gov. Cuomo's efforts to revitalize the state park system and boost tourism are paying off," State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. "It's wonderful to know that so many people are taking advantage of this scenic and beautiful system year after year. It was a banner year for many of our popular upstate tourism destinations, and state parks on Long Island rebounded strongly from 'Superstorm' Sandy. We're looking forward to welcoming our visitors back for even more fun and exploration in 2014."
Continuing an upward trend, attendance of 60.1 million visitors in 2013 was second best in the past decade, behind only 2012's 60.3 million visitors. Attendance was up for the year at many popular destinations across the state, including Allegany, Niagara Falls, Letchworth, Watkins Glen, Green Lakes, Saratoga Spa and Bear Mountain. State parks on Long Island hosted 16.6 million visitors despite the damage from "Superstorm" Sandy. Access to some of the state's most-visited parks, such as Jones Beach and Robert Moses state parks, was restricted for nearly half the year as repairs took place. All state parks were repaired and opened by Memorial Day weekend for the peak summer season.
Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds operated by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation were the highest on record. State park campsites were occupied for 583,016 nights in 2013, surpassing 2012's record of 578,428 overnight stays.
Cuomo's administration has taken a number of steps to improve parks and connect them to New Yorkers, including:
•Authorizing the "New York Works" initiative in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets to fund $179 million in improvements at 81 state parks and historic sites; a third round of $90 million is included in the 2014-15 executive budget.
•Investing nearly $60 million in tourism funding in 2013 - the highest level of tourism funding in decades, making New York state third in the country in tourism funding.
•Including robust funding of $157 million for the Environmental Protection Fund in the executive budget - which includes funding for state land stewardship projects, open space protection and local park and historic preservation projects.
•Sponsoring "I Love My Park Day" to improve parks and historic sites and bring visibility to the system and its needs. I Love My Park Day saw 4,000 volunteers contribute 10,000 volunteer hours to complete more than 100 cleanup, improvement, beautification and stewardship projects at 78 state parks and historic sites in a single day in May.
•Continuing the record of bringing high-profile tourism events to state parks with an agreement with the Professional Golf Association of America to bring the 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup to the renowned Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 179 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by more than 60 million people annually. A recent study commissioned by Parks & Trails New York found New York state parks generate $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com, connect on Facebook, or follow along on Twitter.