State parks see record visitation

North Carolina State Parks has logged its fourth consecutive year of record visitation, with 19.4 million visits to the state’s 39 parks in 2017.

“It’s great to see more and more people seeking out our parks and enjoying some of the most beautiful places in our state,” said Gov. Roy Cooper.

The 19.4 million visits represent a 3.4 percent increase over the 18.8 million visits recorded in 2016. Visitation at state parks has increased more than 44 percent over the past 10 years, with 13.5 million visits recorded in 2007 — 6 million fewer than 2017.

Among the state’s 39 parks and recreation areas, 27 reported visitation increases in 2017. Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Dare County reported the greatest visitation with 1.56 million visits, among six state park units logging more than 1 million visitors.

Park officials attribute the continued increase in visitation to new trails, improvements in parks and greater public awareness brought on by a more aggressive social media effort. More improvements are coming as a result of the Connect N.C. Bond voters approved in 2016 — these funds will allow the Division of Parks and Recreation to add new campgrounds, visitor centers and additional conveniences to parks, as well as acquiring new lands across the state.

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