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Media inquiries: Please contact Julie Buchanan, julie.buchanan@dcr.virginia.gov, 804-786-2292.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: June 23, 2005
Contact: Jim Meisner Jr., DCR Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-8442, jim.meisner@dcr.virginia.gov

Virginia State Parks mark successful Memorial Day weekend

(RICHMOND) - If visitation over the holiday weekend is any indication, Virginia State Parks can expect a record setting 2005. Attendance figures for the Memorial Day weekend, Friday through Monday, saw an increase of 19 percent over the same period last year.

"We are very pleased with the Memorial Day weekend numbers," said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Joseph H. Maroon. "Although our cabins are open year-round, and campgrounds are open March through December, for most people this weekend represented the 'official' start of summer in Virginia State Parks."

More than 215,200 people enjoyed swimming pools and beaches, cabins, campgrounds, picnic shelters, fishing piers and much more in Virginia State Parks over the holiday weekend. The seven pools and 10 swimming beaches in Virginia State Parks opened for the summer season Friday, May 27. In 2004, 174,001 people visited state parks over the same period.

"If the weather cooperates, we expect attendance to continue to increase this year. With continued high gas prices, many families plan trips closer to home," Maroon said. "State parks are a great way to explore the beauty of Virginia without spending days in the car."

DCR State Parks Director Joe Elton sees outdoor recreation as a growing Virginia industry.

"Virginia State Parks address three core needs of Virginians," Elton said. "We serve as a tonic for the mental, physical and emotional well-being of visitors, and improve the health of their minds, bodies and spirits; we ensure tens of thousands of acres of woodlands, where wildlife and wildflowers flourish, are conserved forever; and state parks are an important economic force that enhance local and state economies."

The economic impact of Virginia State Parks can't be over-emphasized, Elton said.

"In 2003, when attendance was down 10 percent, Virginia State Parks still contributed more than $139 million to local economies," Elton said. "State parks keep instate money instate while drawing tens of millions of dollars from millions of out-of-state visitors. Because our parks are primarily in rural areas, the financial infusion is in rural counties throughout Virginia, including southwest, Southside, Shenandoah Valley, central Virginia, and the Eastern Shore. Virginia's urban areas like Virginia Beach, Richmond and Northern Virginia also benefit from state parks visitors."

Virginia's 34 state parks, managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, offer dozens of festivals and concerts and thousands of interpretive programs across the state.

"In the past decade, we've seen annual park attendance grow from around five million to more than seven million. Thanks to Governor Warner and the 2005 Virginia General Assembly, we'll see a significant boost in State Parks funding and staffing. In addition, the 2002 bond initiatives, overwhelmingly supported by Virginia voters, heavily invested in state parks and as a result there are more facilities and activities for more visitors to enjoy," Maroon said.

Beach swimming is available at Claytor Lake, Hungry Mother, Douthat, Bear Creek Lake, Kiptopeke, Fairy Stone, Holliday Lake, Smith Mountain Lake, Twin Lakes, Lake Anna and First Landing state parks.

Swimming pools are open at Chippokes Plantation, Natural Tunnel, Pocahontas, Staunton River and Westmoreland state parks.

For more information about Virginia State Parks activities and amenities or to make reservations in one of the more than 1,400 campsites or 180 climate controlled cabins, or to reserve a picnic shelter, call the Virginia State Parks Reservation Center at 1-800-933-PARK or visit www.dcr.virginia.gov.

Summer offerings vary for each park. Call the parks directly for individual operating schedules.

Bear Creek Lake State Park, (804) 492-4410
Belle Isle State Park, (804) 462-5030
Caledon Natural Area, (540) 663-3861
Chippokes Plantation State Park, (757) 294-3625
Claytor Lake State Park, (540) 643-2500
Douthat State Park, (540) 862-8100
Fairy Stone State Park, (276) 930-2424
False Cape State Park, (757) 426-7128
First Landing State Park, (757) 412-2300
Grayson Highlands State Park, (276) 579-7092
Holliday Lake State Park, (434) 248-6308
Hungry Mother State Park, (276) 781-7400
James River State Park, (434) 933-4355
Kiptopeke State Park, (757) 331-2267
Lake Anna State Park, (540) 854-5503
Leesylvania State Park, (703) 670-0372
Mason Neck State Park, (703) 550-0960
Natural Tunnel State Park, (276) 940-2674
Occoneechee State Park, (434) 374-2210
Pocahontas State Parks, (804) 796-4255
Sailor's Creek Battlefield Historic State Park, (434) 392-3435
Raymond R. "Andy" Guest Jr.Shenandoah River State Park, (540) 622-6840
New River Trail State Park and Shot Tower, (276) 699-6778
Sky Meadows State Park, (540) 592-3556
Smith Mountain Lake State Park, (540) 297-6066
Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, (276) 523-1322
Staunton River Battlefield State Park, (434) 454-4312
Staunton River State Park, (434) 572-4623
Twin Lakes State Park, (434) 392-3435
Westmoreland State Park, (804) 493-8821
Wilderness Road State Park, (276) 445-3065
York River State Park, (757) 566-3036

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