ORANGE COUNTY – For the third year straight, North Carolina’s State parks and recreation areas had record attendance, with 14.2 million visits in 2013, according to the State Division of Parks and Recreation.
Charlie Peek, of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, says that among the 40 state parks and recreation areas, 19 reported increased attendance in the past year, including the Eno River State Park.
“It is almost a super local park. It attracts so many local people everyday of the year. It is a real institution in that part of the state,” Peek says.
Over the past 25 years, the state parks system has seen an 80 percent increase in visitation—in the winter months as well.
Peek says this has made a positive impact on the state’s economy. The average tourist, someone who travels a considerable distance to visit a State Park, will spend about $24 a day in the area, according to a study done in 2008.
“With that level of visitation, that adds up quickly to conservatively more than $400 million a year.”
High visitation this year, Peaks explains, is attributed in part to the fact that there haven’t been any serious weather events in North Carolina, such as hurricanes or snow storms.
“It just makes Durham/Orange County a lot more livable. That attracts a lot of people. It attracts a lot of companies and businesses and just makes for a more dynamic neighborhood.”
The Jordan Lake Recreational Area and Haw River State Park saw slight drops in attendance. Peeks says these fluctuations happen from year to year, but adds that JordanLake had close to 1.5 million visitors in 2013.
In contrast, there were just over 939,000 visitors to Jordan Lake State Recreation Area in 2004, and non-local visitors spent an estimated total of more than $2.8 million while visiting the region.