Record Attendance for Virginia State Parks in 2016

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.


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DCR launches new state parks website

The Virginia State Parks launched a fully redesigned website this morning at 10 a.m. The new site aims to be more interactive, easier to navigate and faster to search for park-specific offerings. Click here to check it out.

False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach.

False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach.

This is the website’s most significant redesign since it was launched in 1993 by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the 36 Virginia state parks.

“Over the years – for two decades – we’ve made minor changes to the website in response to public feedback, state policy, industry standards, social media and other factors,” said DCR Web Coordinator Steve Hawks. “But this year-long redesign process is a major overhaul of nearly every aspect of the website, resulting in a streamlined, simpler design.”

The new design is more user-friendly and will allow users to better customize searches for very specific amenities, while the search results are instantly viewable. Last year, the Virginia State Parks website received more than 9.5 million page views, and is among the leading tourism websites in Virginia.

“With more than 8.8 million visitors last year, Virginia State Parks attract visitors from across the country and around the globe,” said DCR State Parks Director Joe Elton. “For many people, their visit to a state park begins with a visit to our website, so we’re pleased to enhance the experience of both desktop and mobile users with a more responsive design, faster-loading pages and easier access to park photos and videos.”

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Va. state parks set new attendance record

Virginia State Parks once again set a new attendance record with 8,871,822 visitors in 2013, 6 percent higher than 2012’s record attendance of 8,366,179. Virginia’s 36 state parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“In many ways outdoor recreation is weather-driven, and last year we saw the weather impact attendance,” said DCR State Parks Director Joe Elton. “Unseasonable rain in June and July kept people away from state parks, but then mild weather in the fall allowed people the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and everything state parks have to offer, from an afternoon hike to overnight stays in our cabins, lodges and campsites.”

The view from a ridge in Grayson Highlands State Park.

The view from a ridge in Grayson Highlands State Park.

Day-use attendance in 2013 also reached a record level, increasing to 7,779,790 up 7 percent from 7,264,264 in 2012.

While state parks are a convenient stop for nearby neighbors or a reasonable alternative for vacationing families and couples during difficult financial times, statewide the parks remain an economic force that affects local communities.

Virginia State Parks directly and indirectly had an economic impact of $206 million in 2013, a 4 percent increase over the previous record $198 million in 2012.

“Our state parks are popular because they promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy environment, and they stimulate outdoor recreation and tourism spending important to the health of our economy.” Elton said. “State parks help local economies generate more than $12 for every $1 of general fund money allocated to state parks in the state budget.”

Click here to see attendance figures for each state park.

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Hike in the New Year at Va. State Parks

Every Virginia state park, like Lake Anna (pictured), is offering special hike options on New Years Day.

Every Virginia state park, like Lake Anna (pictured), is offering special hike options on New Years Day.

Here’s an idea for outdoors lovers on New Years Day: Find your nearest State Park and go for a hike. As part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes, all 36 of Virginia’s state parks will be offering special offerings.

Self-led and ranger-led hikes and activities vary by park. For example, Douthat State Park in Millboro will host a hike led by the Alleghany Highlands Master Naturalists, and Mason Neck State Park in Lorton will hold three ranger-led hikes of varying difficulty to the park’s bird observation blinds.
Click here for a complete list of First Day Hikes and details.
In conjunction with First Day Hikes, Virginia State Parks will hold a special photo contest. Prizes include stays in a lodge and a cabin as well as annual passes. Click here for contest information. 
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