Record year for Virginia State Parks meant $222M for economy

WASHINGTON — Lower gas prices, good weather and the year-long celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Virginia State Parks system all helped boost state park attendance to a record in 2016.

Total state park attendance was 10,022,698, a 12 percent increase over 2015. More than 1 million overnight visitors stayed in cabins and campgrounds last year, a 3 percent increase.

Virginia’s State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

More park visitors took part in programs as well.

“Last year, a record-high 548,398 people attended our ranger-led environmental and historic programs, an increase of 23 percent over 2015,” said Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver.

There were parks that saw a drop in attendance last year.

Several parks in the Tidewater and Northern Neck regions were closed for weeks because of hurricanes, negatively affecting their visitation, overnight attendance and revenue.

Virginia’s most popular state park last year was Pocahontas State Park, near Chesterfield, Virginia, with nearly 1.5 million visitors.

Virginia’s state parks have an impact of more than $222 million a year on Virginia’s economy, according to the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

See a list of individual park attendance at Virginia’s 37 state parks in 2016.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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