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Niagara Falls (File photo)
Niagara Falls (File photo)

Niagara Falls leads the way: Another record year for state parks in 2021


Tue, Feb 8th 2022 04:50 pm

Statewide attendance climbs more than 427,000

√ Governor's executive budget includes $200 million for state park upgrades to welcome surging visitation

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced New York's state parks, historic sites, campgrounds and trails welcomed a record-setting 78.4 million visits in 2021, continuing the robust level of visitation seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"From Niagara Falls to Montauk Point, our state parks and historic sites are a treasure that every New Yorker should be able to enjoy," Hochul said. "During the pandemic, parks and public spaces have become more important than ever – providing New Yorkers with safe and enjoyable outdoor spaces for gatherings and recreation. New York was proud to welcome a record-setting number of visitors to our state parks last year, and we look forward to modernizing our parks system as we approach its historic 100th anniversary in 2024."

Total visits statewide increased in 2021 by more than 427,000, driven by a dramatic rebound of more than 3 million visitors at Niagara Falls State Park compared to 2020, when international border tourism was curtailed due to COVID-19 protocols. More than 9 million visitors went to Niagara Falls State Park last year.

State park attendance has been steadily climbing, rising 41% since 2008. In addition to the total attendance, state parks also set a new record for 2021 overnight visitation at campgrounds, with campsite, cabins and cottages booked for more than 787,000 nights.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "I am grateful that even more people decided they wanted to go to our state parks and historic sites in 2021, even as other recreation options were becoming more available to them. New York has invested significantly in recent years to make its facilities world-class, and even more improvements are coming."

Hochul's proposed 2022-23 budget includes $200 million in capital funding for State Parks, an 80% increase from the current level, to enhance the “NY Parks 100” capital initiative. Hochul announced one such project – the creation of a new state park at the High Falls area of downtown Rochester – in her State of the State address in January. Another new state park is being created in the City of Kingston and is expected to open to the public later this year.

Empire State Development Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, "With more travelers increasingly looking for new ways to experience the outdoors, our world-class state parks system offers visitors unparalleled opportunities. I LOVE NY proudly encourages travelers from around the state, nation and world to include our parks, trails, historic sites and campgrounds as part of their next getaway and come be a part of all."

Major parks projects completed since the onset of the pandemic included a renovation of the swimming pool at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Westchester County, the opening of a first-of-its kind Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park, expansion of Niagara Falls State Park to improve access to the Niagara Gorge by removing a section of the former Robert Moses Parkway, creation of a new visitor center at Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the opening of the Jones Beach Energy and Nature Center, and an expanded Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

“NY Parks 100,” Hochul’s team said, will “focus on creating places to recreate locally, relieving overcrowded parks, welcoming new visitors, and protecting New York state's environmental and historic legacy. This new plan will ensure people from all communities and across all ages and abilities can fully experience our outdoors, our culture and our heritage.”

Hochul has also proposed a $4 billion "Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act" that will be on the ballot in November. If approved by voters, the act would boost funding for climate change mitigation, restoration and flood risk reduction projects, and other environmental protection programs.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 78 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518-474-0456.

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