Spring attendance soars at state parks
Agency says closure controversy appears to have boosted interest
By KENNETH C. CROWE II, Staff writer Click byline for more stories by writer. First published: Thursday, July 1, 2010
ALBANY -- Even bad news about closing parks can be great publicity -- attendance soared this spring at the Capital Region's 23 state parks and historic sites.
More people found their way to local state parks as attendance regionwide jumped an average 37 percent, led by Grafton Lakes State Park at 70 percent, according to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
"We had great weather and parks were in the news," said Eileen Larrabee, a State Parks spokeswoman.
The news wasn't always good this spring.
Gov. David Paterson's proposal to close 55 parks and historic sites in May to save $6 million angered many residents. They rallied to call for the reopening of the closed facilities.
The closing of the parks for much of May is considered to have played a role in getting people out to visit them when they reopened in time for Memorial Day weekend.
The continuing poor economy also is believed to be a factor in rising attendance.
The 37 percent increase in the Saratoga-Capital District Region attendance this spring compared with spring 2009 was more than three times greater than the statewide increase of 11 percent.
From April to the third weekend in June of each year, attendance statewide increased to 13.2 million from 11.9 million.
The 23 parks and historic sites in the Saratoga-Capital Region had 958,516 visitors this spring, an increase of 257,199 over the 701,317 visitors in the same time period in 2009.
Not every park showed an increase. Schodack Island State Park, one of nine area parks and historic sites that were shuttered, had a 33 percent drop to 19,632 visitors this spring from 29,467 in 2009. Attendance at the park on the Hudson River likely was hurt because it was closed during this spring's striped bass season.
Larrabee said the state parks in the region reporting strong attendance.
The good weather predicted for the three-day Fourth of July holiday weekend is expected to further boost the number of visitors. Larrabee said 90 percent of the parks' campsites are reserved for the weekend.
State Parks also is promoting different parks at its website nysparks.com and has a Facebook page.
During the park-closing controversies, park advocates used Facebook to promote activities and keep people informed.
Kenneth C. Crowe II can be reached at 454-5084 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These state parks showed the largest percentage increase from 2009 to 2010. The numbers are for the period from April to the third weekend in June each year.
State Park 2009 2010 % increase
Saratoga-Capital Region 701,317 958,516 37
Grafton Lakes 32,456 55,018 70
Saratoga Spa 383,502 594,931 55
Moreau Lake 69,837 90,986 30
John Boyd Thacher 53,870 64,538 20
Source: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
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