N.C. state parks getting more visitors

Posted September 20, 2009 11:25 a.m. EDT

— Surviving the recession and enjoying mild weather, more North Carolinians have sought out recreational opportunities at state parks this year.

The state Division of Parks and Recreation says that visitation for the first eight months of 2009 is up 14 percent to 10.6 million from the same period a year ago. A third of parks have seen visitation spike at least 20 percent, parks officials said.

"Citizens in North Carolina traditionally have turned to state parks for affordable family recreation during difficult economic times, and these attendance numbers reflect that,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. “Despite tight budgets and reduced staffs, the state parks have worked extra hard to maintain the facilities and the visitor experience so people can relax and enjoy the outdoors this year."

Jordan Lake and Cliffs of the Neuse park, outside Seven Springs, both saw visitation increase by around 50 percent, while Falls Lake has seen an increase of 24 percent.

Crowders Mountain in Cleveland County saw the largest jump in visitors – 78 percent. Other sites that saw significant increases include Stone and Pilot mountains, Fort Macon, Lake Waccamaw and Raven Rock.

If the rate of visitors to state parks keeps up, it could break the record of 13.4 million set in 2007.

Parks officials said that good weather could keep up the pace in the fall, when hikers and sightseers are drawn by autumn leaves and cooler temperatures.