The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
State parks hit record attendance levels in 2022
NEW YORK >> Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced annual attendance at state parks, historic sites, campgrounds, and trails operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation saw a record 79.5 million visits in 2022. Total visits statewide increased by more than one million compared to the previous year.
“From Niagara Falls to Bear Mountain to Jones Beach, New York’s State Parks offer residents and visitors the opportunity to reconnect with the environment, breath in the fresh air, and find solace in their natural surroundings,” Hochul said in a news release from the state. “Our recent investment to revitalize the park system, expand open space, and protect our coastlines will ensure that generations to come can enjoy the diverse environment that this state has to offer.”
New York State Park attendance has been steadily climbing for more than a decade, rising nearly 43 percent since 2008. Among the most-visited State Parks in 2022 were Niagara Falls State Park (9.4 million visits), Jones Beach State Park (8.5 million visits), Robert Moses State Park (3.8 million visits), Saratoga Spa (3.5 million visits), Sunken Meadow State Park (3.1 million visits) Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park (3 million visits) and Bear Mountain State Park (2.4 million visits).
New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “State Parks is grateful to those who have returned and to those who are discovering what all the State Parks and Historic Sites have to offer. With Governor Hochul’s support, we are working to better welcome these visitors, play a positive role in local economies, and address the challenges of a changing climate.”
Hochul’s proposed FY 2024 budget commits $200 million in capital funding to continue the ongoing transformation of New York’s flagship parks, support critical infrastructure projects, and help meet the goal of powering park facilities with renewable energy by 2030. The budget proposal would also enhance the agency workforce to support a new and expanded Park Police Academy class, the Environmental Bond Act, the Empire State Trail, park administration and site operations. Additionally, the $4.2 billion “Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act” will boost funding for climate change mitigation, restoration and flood risk reduction projects, and open space protection to continue to improve stewardship of the park system’s 350,000 acres and 300 miles of coastline.
Empire State Development Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “New York’s world-class State Parks are a gem in the state’s travel and tourism crown, from the namesake
waterfalls at Niagara Falls, to the picturesque paths at Watkins Glen, to the legendary lighthouse at Montauk Point. I LOVE NY continues to work with our State Parks partners to encourage travelers from around the world to explore our parks, campgrounds and historic sites as part of their next New York getaway.”
New York State Council of Parks Chair Bryan Erwin said, “To give a sense of the scale of these numbers, these attendance records rival and exceed the attendance for most National Parks. And this Governor is meeting the moment in two ways: 1) The Bond Act investments will provide key infrastructure to ensure our parks are climate resilient as well as support our increased visitation, and 2) develop and sustain park professionals to appropriately staff our parks and expand our Park Police presence to insure the safety of all of our patrons.”
Parks & Trails New York Incoming Executive Director Paul Steely White said, “These visitation numbers are truly staggering. Annual attendance at New York State Parks is now five times higher than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemite— combined. Now our task is to ensure that our parks have the resources to accommodate this historic demand, and to make certain that the health, environmental and economic benefits are shared by all New Yorkers.”
Open Space Institute President and CEO Kim Elliman said, “These recordbreaking attendance numbers exemplify the love New Yorkers have for our parks and outdoor spaces and also demonstrate a clear need for more park and trail protection and enhancement work to support continually emerging needs. The benefits of parks are universal, and we applaud the administration for their continued commitment to connecting people from all backgrounds and experiences to New York’s wonderful natural resources.”
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “As an organization deeply rooted in the mission of making lands and other natural wonders available to the public in the Hudson Valley, we applaud the incredible milestone of 79 million visitors accessing New York’s magnificent state parks system. This impressive accomplishment highlights the vital role our state and local parks, and conserved lands owned by land trusts across the state, play in providing safe, affordable, uplifting experiences for all New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors. We deeply thank Governor Hochul and Commissioner Kulleseid for their unparalleled leadership in advancing continued investment in our parks and look forward to exploring opportunities for the administration and Legislature to repeat last year’s historic funding levels for parks capital investment.”