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Media inquiries: Please contact Gary Waugh, gary.waugh@dcr.virginia.gov, 804-786-5045.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 26, 2011
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442, jim.meisner@dcr.virginia.gov

Virginia State Parks 2010 Visitation Sets Record
State Parks Celebrate 75th Anniversary in 2011

RICHMOND – Virginia State Parks enjoyed record attendance in 2010 topping 8 million for the first time with 8,065,558 visitors, a 7 percent increase over 2009.

This record comes as the state park system prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2011. On June 15, 1936, Virginia became the first state to open an entire state park system when Governor George C. Peery oversaw the opening ceremonies at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion.

“Governor Peery spoke of a state park system that would provide recreation for all Virginians and attract tourists from other states,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said. “The Virginia State Parks continue to be a premier tourism destination. Today, visitors from around the country and the Commonwealth travel each year by the millions to enjoy our unparalleled natural beauty. ”

McDonnell continued, “The economic impact of this many visitors in our state park system can’t be over-emphasized. State park visitors contribute to local and state economies when they buy food or camping supplies, when they visit local restaurants, shops and attractions, and when they buy gas during the drive. From rural areas of Virginia to major urban areas, all Virginians benefit from attendance at state parks.”

The Virginia park system opened with six state parks. Today there are 35 Virginia State Parks. Park attendance in 1936 was just under 91,000.

Last year also marked the first time Virginia State Parks hosted more than 1 million overnight guests with 1,022,698 people staying in cabins and campsites.

Increases in state park attendance directly impact local economies across the Commonwealth. Based on studies of past park users and their spending patterns, 2010 saw an increase in the economic impact of state parks to $189 million, up from $175 million in 2009.

The 35 award-winning Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“It’s exciting to see so many people enjoying Virginia’s Parks,” said Doug Domenech, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources. “These attendance and spending figures demonstrate that investments in our natural resources can pay tremendous economic dividends across the Commonwealth.”

DCR Director David Johnson said record-high attendance and overnight visitation serve as exciting springboards into the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the state park system.

“When the six Virginia State Parks opened in 1936, they served as a model for state parks nationwide. Our parks continue to do so today,” Johnson said. “Virginia is blessed to have dedicated and professional state park employees who strive to provide excellent customer service and good stewardship of Virginia’s many natural and cultural treasures. Virginia State Parks have more than met the original goal of providing quality, affordable outdoor recreation while preserving Virginia’s unique landscapes and scenic beauty,” Johnson said. “We intend to celebrate this significant milestone all year and invite every Virginian to join us in a Virginia State Park.”

For more information about state park anniversary activities or to make reservations in a cabin or campsite, call the Virginia State Parks Reservation Center at (800) 933-PARK or visit www.virginiastateparks.gov. For a table showing the attendance and economic impact of each state park, click here (PDF) or e-mail jim.meisner@dcr.virginia.gov. For downloadable, high-resolution images, click here.

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