State park sees visitors increase

Published 1:07 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

Following a statewide trend, the number of visitors to Goose Creek State Park increased from 2016 to 2017.

State parks across North Carolina experienced a record number of visitors in 2017, according the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. State parks and recreational areas were visited by 19.4 million visitors last year, a 3.4-percent increase over the 18.8 million visitors in 2016.

Goose Creek State Park had 299,100 visitors in 2017, a 6-percent increase over the 283,275 visitors in 2016. In 2015, the park had 262,252 visitors, a 3-percent increase over the 255,107 visitors in 2014.

The park was established in 1974. It encompasses about 1,672 acres.

Doug Lequire, the park’s superintendent, attributed the increase in visitors to several factors: warm weather during recent springs, more emphasis on the park system’s public-relations efforts and a state parks “passport” program.

“If it’s less than 10 percent, it’s not real significant for us. You could have a warming … like last spring was a milder spring. Typically in the spring, that’s one of our busier times. So, you’ll have more people camping and out on the trails because of the weather,” Lequire said. “I know for the last couple of years we haven’t had really cold seasons. This winter is the first one we’ve had in three years.”

Lequire discussed the other factors in the visitors increase. “Last year, the park system also put out what they call a passport system — a passport program. Basically, you get a little booklet and you can go around and get stamps at every state park. The more stamps you get, there’s prizes associated with that,” he said.

The state park system’s public-relations program aims to get people to visit the lesser-known state parks, which seems to be working, he said.

Lynn Davis, tourism director for the City of Washington, includes Goose Creek State Park among the area’s tourism attractions.

“Having the state park in our backyard is one of the greatest assets that you could ask for. They are consistently open 364 days a year. This is an attraction that people can visit whenever they come. It’s very family friendly. It’s at your own pace, and it is certainly a draw to this area,” Davis said.

The Washington Tourism Development Authority uses the park in its marketing efforts to bring people to the area.

“From our side of things, we’ve actually included some of the photography from the park in our advertising efforts, encouraging people to explore the park. So we recognize that it’s a very valuable piece of what we have to offer,” Davis said.

Twenty-seven of the state’s 39 state parks and recreation areas reported increases in visitation during 2017. Dare County’s Jockeys Ridge State Park reported 1.56 million visitors last year. Five other state parks or recreation areas reported being visited by more than 1 million people in 29017. They were Fort Macon and William B. Umstead state parks and the Falls Lake, Jordan Lake and Kerr Lake recreation areas.

“We are pleased North Carolinians and visitors to our state continue to love, enjoy and experience our parks,” Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Hamilton said in a press release. “In 2017 we also acquired 2,075 additional acres. The acquired lands will be added to eight state parks, four state natural areas and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.”

Visitation at state parks and state recreation areas has increased more than 44 percent during the last decade. In 2007, 13.5 million people visited a state park unit — 6 million fewer than last year.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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