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Niagara Falls State Park file photo
Niagara Falls State Park file photo

Another record attendance year at state parks


Wed, Feb 7th 2024 05:35 pm

2023 statewide attendance hits 84.1 million, surging by nearly 4.7 million from previous record set in 2022; 11th consecutive year of increased park attendance

√ Park attendance data available here

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced state parks, historic sites, campgrounds and trails operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation saw a record 84.1 million visits in 2023. Total visits statewide surged by nearly 4.7 million, a 6% increase, compared to the previous record year in 2022.

The park system marks its 100th anniversary in 2024.

“These numbers reflect New Yorkers’ strong demand and appreciation for places to swim, hike, camp, gather with friends and family, and enjoy safe, healthy recreation,” Hochul said. “As we celebrate the New York State Park centennial this year, my administration is committed to keeping this progress going to ensure New Yorkers have access to world-class recreational facilities for years to come.”

Last year marked the 11th consecutive annual increase in state park attendance, and the 4.7 million jump in visits was the highest annual increase on record. Over the past two decades, state park attendance has climbed steadily, increasing nearly 60%.

Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “State Parks is welcoming many millions more visitors than ever before to see all our improved facilities have to offer. With continued support from Gov. Hochul and the hard work of our State Parks team, more exciting projects and programs are coming as we celebrate our state park centennial this year, and I am confident we will keep seeing more visitors, who help drive many local economies across the state.”

Highlights of 2023 improvements at state parks include completing the final phase of a $47 million multiyear project at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island with new trails, observation areas and resiliency updates; opening the new, $46 million Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Welcome Center at Niagara Falls State Park; a new, $6.8 million multiuse trail at Allegany State Park; and $3 million in improvements at Green Lakes State Park in Onondaga County.

Parks and Trails NY Executive Director Paul Steely White said, "The paths, parking lots and picnic tables of our world-class state park system have never been more full. The secret is out: Our public lands hold the antidote to digital overload and the elixir for stronger local economies. Kudos to Gov. Hochul and State Parks for instigating the most virtuous of cycles: major investment leading to major benefits which, in turn, spur more demand, more investment and more benefits.”

Open Space Institute (OSI) President and CEO Kim Elliman said, “These record-breaking attendance numbers exemplify the love New Yorkers have for our parks and outdoor spaces, and also demonstrate a clear need for more park and trail protection and enhancement work to support continually emerging needs.”

As part of the 100th anniversary, a Centennial Challenge encourages visitors to complete 24 activities from a list of 100 to win a prize. Special events are being held in parks across the state through 2024, and there also is a special centennial line of merchandise.

Last week, State Parks launched the digital “Share Your Story” project and invited the public to share stories, photos and videos reminiscing on their experiences at state parks and historic sites. The multimedia campaign will run throughout 2024 in celebration of the centennial, offering citizens a chance to celebrate one of New York’s most significant environmental and cultural legacies and the role it’s played in their lives.

Hochul’s fiscal year 2025 executive budget proposes $300 million in capital funding to invest in park improvements, which includes $100 million for the celebration of the centennial. Projects include transforming the East Bathhouse at Jones Beach State Park with a sprayground and learn-to-swim pool; rehabilitating Harriman State Park’s Lake Sebago Beach, which has been closed since 2011 due to damage from Hurricane Irene; and building a swimming area at Sojourner Truth State Park in Ulster County. Hochul has also directed State Parks to more than double the number of pools and beaches where lifeguards offer water safety instruction programs for children.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses and boat launches. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer app or call 518-474-0456. Connect on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and the OPRHP blog.

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