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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 20, 2010
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442, jim.meisner@dcr.virginia.gov

Virginia State Parks are an economic engine for communities and an economical alternative for visitors

(EDITORS: For a table showing the attendance and economic impact of each state park, click here (PDF) or e-mail jim.meisner@dcr.virginia.gov.)

(RICHMOND) Despite a struggling economy, Virginia State Parks set a new attendance record in 2009, with 7,534,960 visitors, a four percent increase over 2008.

In 2008, more than 7.2 million people visited Virginia State Parks, down slightly from the previous record high of 7.4 million visitors in 2007.

"Millions of people continue to look to Virginia State Parks as a vacation destination in these uncertain economic times," said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation State Parks Director Joe Elton. "These past three years have seen the highest state park attendance in our 74 year history because people continue to see the value and benefit of visiting our parks. Year after year, generation after generation, visitors return to our parks to camp, hike, swim, fish, bike, or simply relax in a cabin or family lodge."

In 2009, 253,116 visitors stayed in a state park cabin or lodge, and another 646,506 visitors spent the night in a state park campground.

While Virginia State Parks are a primary vacation destination for millions of people from around the country, state parks also are an economic stimulant to local economies. The estimated economic impact of Virginia State Parks last year was $175 million. The estimated economic impact in 2008 was $168 million, and in 2007, with the slightly higher attendance, the estimated economic impact was $171 million.

"The contribution of Virginia State Parks to state and local tourism is significant and can be especially important in the current economic climate," Elton stated. " Overnight guests in 26 of Virginia's 35 state parks contribute to local economies, as well as to the state economy. Last year, more than 899,000 people stayed in cabins, family lodges or campsites located across Virginia," he said.

"In addition to the park accommodation fees paid to the state, most of those visitors bought food or ice nearby, visited local attractions or restaurants, and filled up the gas tank before driving home. Because our parks are primarily in rural areas, the economic impact is especially important in rural counties throughout Virginia, including Southside, Shenandoah Valley, central Virginia and the Eastern Shore," Elton said. "Virginia's urban areas, such as Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia and Richmond, also benefit from visitors to our parks in those areas. The increase in attendance is an indication that state parks remain an affordable and attractive choice for visits, vacations and relaxing recreational opportunities. Last year, Virginia State Parks won nearly 90 awards from private and public groups, and the record high attendance is just one more indicator that our state parks are among the best in the nation," Elton said.

Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and offer dozens of festivals and concerts and thousands of educational programs across the state.

"Virginia State Parks allow the people of Virginia the opportunity to protect our natural resources and cultural treasures, while providing affordable and unique recreational opportunities," Elton said. "We help connect children and families to nature, great outdoor recreation opportunities and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to a new attendance record, 2009 also brought a record number of volunteers. More than 235,000 hours of service were given by citizens helping park staff. Some help collect fees, some give nature and history programs, others help with maintenance projects," said Elton.

There are opportunities for anyone to have fun while helping make our state park system even better. For more information about state park activities and amenities, or to make reservations in one of the 25 parks with camping facilities or 18 parks with cabins or family lodges, call the Virginia State Parks Reservation Center at 800-933-PARK or visit www.virginiastateparks.gov .

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