Increase result of efforts

Published 5:19 pm Saturday, January 18, 2014

It should come as no surprise that attendance at Goose Creek State Park — and several other state parks across North Carolina — increased from 2012 to 2013. One could say that increase was expected.

Goose Creek State Park, especially in recent years, has been offering more programs and a wider variety of programs to attract visitors to the park. With its camping area, picnic areas, walking trails and beach on the Pamlico River, the park offers plenty of outside amenities for visitors to enjoy.

But do not forget the educational — and often entertaining — programs that park offers in its Environmental Education Center or that make use of the park’s trails and other outdoor amenities as outdoor classrooms.

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,” Nicole Crider, a park ranger, said Friday.

The state parks also help the state and local economies.

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.

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. Look for more visitors to make trips to the increasing number of state parks in coming years.

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.

Other than being supported by tax dollars, the state parks and great majority of their amenities and programs are free. Visit Goose Creek State Park or another state park and take advantage of a good deal.