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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: June 03, 2004
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 2004. Preliminary attendance figures for the Memorial Day weekend, Friday through Monday, saw an increase of 29 percent over the same period last year.

"We are very pleased with the 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 174,000 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 last Friday.

"If the weather cooperates, we can expect attendance to turn around this year. With continued air-travel concerns and record high gas prices, many families are planning trips closer to home," Maroon said. "State parks are a great way to explore the beauty of Virginia without spending days in the car."

Attendance was down 10 percent in 2003, in large part because of heavy rains and the devastation of Hurricane Isabel. Parks reported 59 rain days in June, July and August last year.

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

"Virginia State Parks address three core needs of Virginians," Elton said. "We serve as a tonic to 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 the 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. Because of bond initiatives investing in state parks, there are more parks, facilities and activities for more visitors, who in turn contribute more to Virginia's tourism economy," 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.

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