State park attendance tops 1.2M

Feb 22, 2024 at 11:54 am by Observer-Review

Watkins Glen State Park
NEW YORK STATE--Gov. Kathy Hochul has 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 percent increase, compared to the previous record year in 2022.
Watkins Glen State Park saw an increase from 995,377 in 2022 to 1,234,805 attendees in 2023 (24 percent growth).
Overall, in the last two decades, state park attendance has climbed steadily, increasing by almost 60 percent. Watkins Glen has far surpassed that number, seeing an increase of 236 percent.
“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.
State Parks 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 Governor 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 multi-year 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 multi-use 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.”
New York State Parks also kicked off the celebration of its 100th anniversary of the creation of the park system in 1924, including a Centennial Challenge, which 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.
State Parks also launched the digital “Share Your Story” project and invited the public to share stories, photos, and videos reminiscing on their experiences at New York State Parks and Historic Sites. The multimedia campaign will run throughout 2024 in celebration of the Centennial.
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