One aspect of the recession is that tight pocketbooks send families looking for lower cost vacation alternatives. In 2009 Virginians and visitors to Virginia found trips to state parks were a great value for the money and visited in record numbers.
Joe Elton reported in his Annual Report for 2009, “Visitation is up 4% over last year, camping is up 8%, volunteerism is up slightly to more than 235,500 hours with a total value of more than $5 million placed on that labor. Revenues are up 11% over last year. Total Reservations for the year are up 5% over last year bringing total revenue to more than $8 million for the first time in history [for camping and cabins].”
The extra revenue came in handy since budget cuts for FY2009 and 2010 exceed $3.4 million. Dedicated park staff and volunteers worked hard so visitors would not notice the impact of those cuts despite of the loss of 19 full time positions and the need to keep another 25 vacant positions unfilled. There has also been a reduction in part time staff who support park operations.
Virginia State Parks will receive a little over $15.7 million for fiscal year 2010 which ends June 30, 2010. In calendar year 2009, the 7.5 million visitors contributed in excess of $175 million dollars to the state and localities, or eleven times the expense to the Commonwealth. In addition to being a tonic for the mind, body and spirit, our state parks are an excellent investment for our tax dollars.
New cabins and campgrounds at Shenandoah River and Natural Tunnel state parks and three additional cabins at Douthat State Park should boost revenue and economic impact in calendar year 2010. These facilities are the result of the 2002 State Park and Natural Area General Obligation bond which was designed to increase the revenue capacity of our state parks. The bond also funded new cabins at Kiptopeke, Claytor Lake, Occoneechee, Bear Creek Lake and James River state parks and campgrounds at James River, Belle Isle and Lake Anna state parks which are already open.