(RICHMOND) – Virginia State Parks had a record-setting Memorial Day weekend with new highs in attendance and revenue, and even website traffic. The May 28-31 attendance of 271,683 was an increase of 15.9 percent over Memorial Day weekend 2009. The previous spring holiday weekend record was 269,552 visitors in 2007.
“For many families, Virginia State Parks are a tradition handed down from generation to generation. Parents share childhood memories with their children and make new memories enjoying the beauty and splendor of a state park,” said David Johnson, Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. “Each year more and more people see that there’s so much to do and so much to love in Virginia State Parks. Attendance over the holiday weekend demonstrates just how important and popular our state parks are.”
The award-winning Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The record-setting weekend built upon last year’s record-high annual attendance of 7,534,960 visitors, a four percent increase over 2008. Attendance through May 31 was 2.2 million, 8.8 percent more than at this time last year.
“We view the increase in attendance as yet another indicator that people continue to rely on Virginia State Parks as affordable and comfortable vacation destinations. Our parks are the natural choice for activities as varied as walking, biking, or spending an enjoyable afternoon around the pool or on the beach,” said DCR’s State Parks Director Joe Elton. “The holiday weekend continues the trend we’ve seen over the past four years. Visitors from all around the country have discovered that Virginia State Parks are special and they make our parks primary vacation destinations.”
The unofficial start of summer is the first weekend swimming pools and beaches are open in state parks. Warm weather and clear skies across the Commonwealth made swimming a popular attraction.
Lines at some pools didn’t dampen the spirits of visitors, as state parks swimming revenue increased 70 percent over last year. Merchandise sales were up 31 percent, and food and beverage sales jumped 56 percent.
“Total revenue for Memorial Day weekend was $539,778, 17 percent over last year,” Elton said. “If we have good weather this summer, more records will be set as even more people visit for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks.”The holiday weekend record-setting began May 28 on DCR’s state parks website, www.virginiastateparks.gov.
“DCR had the greatest single-day traffic ever with 40,489 pageviews and 11,571 visitors,” said DCR Webmaster Steve Hawks. “From Friday through Monday, we had 144,985 pageviews and 41,224 visitors.”
Website visitation is up 21 percent over this time last year, Hawks said.
While Virginia State Parks are primary vacation spots for millions of people from around the country, the parks also are an economic stimulant to local economies. The estimated economic impact of Virginia State Parks in 2009 was $175 million.
Throughout the year, Virginia State Parks offer dozens of festivals and concerts and thousands of educational programs across the state.
For more information about state park activities and amenities, or to make reservations in a campsite, cabin or family lodge, call the Virginia State Parks Reservation Center at (800) 933-PARK or visit www.virginiastateparks.gov.
Below is a video from Smith Mountain Lake on Memorial Day: