State park’s visitors increasePublished 5:26pm Friday, January 17, 2014
Joining several other state parks, Goose Creek State Park saw its number of visitors increase from 2012 to 2013.
Attendance at the park increased by 8 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to information from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The park had 247,326 visitors in 2012. In 2013, the number of visitors grew to 266,582. In December 2013, there were 14,140 people who visited the park, down from 14,558 visitors in 2012, a decline of 3 percent.
Nicole Crider, a ranger at the park, said there are several factors behind the increase in park visitors from 2012 to 2013.
“We’ve been doing lots of different projects — everything from natural resource-management projects, such as trying to introduce more longleaf pines, opening our trails and beach areas to provide safer and nicer public areas for the public to visit,” Crider said. “Everything here in the park is free for anybody to come hike trails, spend the day out here. I think that has a lot to do with it,” Crider said.
The park is working toward increasing the number and types of programs it offers, she said.
“We’re trying to reach different audiences to let them know about the park. Some people have lived here their whole lives and didn’t really know much about what we have going on. We’re trying t reach different groups and bring them out here and show them how great it is out here,” Crider said.
In the past, many of the park’s popular weekend activities were designed with children in mind, but that is changing, she said.
“Historically, they had been geared toward children years and years ago. The last two years, we’ve really focused on opening it up to all ages so families can come out. Adults and children something out of it, as well,” Crider said.
For the third straight year, attendance at North Carolina’s state parks and state recreation areas hovered at a record level with 14.2 million visits in 2013, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
Among 40 state parks and state recreation areas, 19 reported increases in attendance in 2013. Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County reported the highest attendance at 1.19 million visits, followed closely by Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Dare County with 1.18 million visits.
“Throughout fluctuations in the economy and the tourism industry, visitation at state parks has remained steady and robust, and that reflects the value North Carolinians place on outdoor experiences and the state’s rich natural resources,” said Carol Tingley, acting state parks director. “Also, visitation at this level reveals the strong contribution that our state parks make to North Carolina’s tourism economy as well as the economies of the local communities in which they’re located.”
A recent economic study revealed that travelers spend an average $23.56 a day to enjoy the state parks. The analysis by North Carolina State University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management estimated the state parks system’s total annual economic impact at more than $400 million. The complete study can be found at: http://www.ncparks.gov/News/special/economic_impact.php.
Over the past 25 years, the state parks system has seen a dramatic 80 percent increase in visitation. In 1988, 7.89 million people visited state parks and state recreation areas.
The state parks system manages more than 220,000 acres within state parks, state recreation areas and a system of state natural areas dedicated to conservation of rare resources. Through its New Parks for a New Century initiative, six new state parks have been added to the system since 2003.