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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 28, 2009
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442, jim.meisner@dcr.virginia.gov

Virginia State Parks 2008 visitation second highest on record

Virginia State Parks remain an economical alternative for guests and an economic engine for communities

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

(RICHMOND) - As the economy slowed dramatically in 2008 forcing people to tighten belts and rethink vacation plans, Virginia State Parks remained an affordable and attractive choice for visits, vacations and relaxing recreational opportunities. Visitation last year reached near-record numbers.

In 2008, more than 7.2 million people visited Virginia State Parks, the second highest total in park history. The 2008 figure was down slightly from the 7.4 million visitors in 2007.

"Despite record-high gas prices and a serious downturn in the economy, millions of people continue to turn to Virginia State Parks as a vacation destination," said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Joseph H. Maroon. "Last year we saw only a small drop in attendance, down from our highest visitation on record, because people continue to see the value and benefit of a Virginia State Parks experience."

In addition to being a primary vacation destination, Virginia State Parks are an economic stimulant to local economies. The estimated economic impact of Virginia State Parks last year was $168 million. 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 this economic climate," Maroon 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 850,000 people stayed in cabins or campsites located across Virginia," Maroon 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 financial infusion is especially important in rural counties throughout Virginia, including Southside, Shenandoah Valley, central Virginia and the Eastern Shore," Maroon said. "Virginia's urban areas, such as Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia and Richmond, also benefit from visitors to our parks in those areas."

Virginia's 35 award-winning state parks, managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, offer dozens of festivals and concerts and thousands of educational programs across the state.

"Virginia State Parks address three core needs of Virginians," said State Parks Director Joe Elton. "State parks are a tonic for the mind, body and spirit of visitors; they protect some of Virginia's natural and cultural treasures; and state parks are an important economic force that enhances local and state economies.

"In the past decade, we've seen annual park attendance climb from around five million to more than seven million," Elton said. "The 2002 bond improvements, overwhelmingly supported by Virginia voters, enabled significant investment in state parks and, as these new facilities and projects open, there's so much more in our parks for visitors to enjoy," Elton said.

Park officials reach the economic impact finding based on an average of $75 spent per overnight visitor, and an average of $16 per day use visitor.

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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