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New River Trail State Park attracted more than one million visitors and had nearly 6 percent more attendance than in 2011.
The trail that passes through Carroll and Grayson counties and Galax followed the trend that allowed Virginia State Parks to set a new attendance record in 2012.
State parks attracted 8.366 million visitors, an increase of 7 percent. The new record is a 4 percent increase over the previous attendance record of 8.065 million visitors, set in 2010.
New River Trail had 1,047,792 visitors in 2012, an increase of 58,337 and 5.9 percent from 2011. Day users of the park made up more than 99 percent of the total visits.
Two-year growth in New River Trail attendance was 15.7 percent from 2010’s 905,808 visitors.
The state projected that the New River Trail had an economic impact on the region of $17,236, 967 in 2012, an increase of 5.6 percent from $16,325,995 in 2011, and 15 percent from $14,987,820 in 2010.
The trail also passes through Wythe and Pulaski counties, and the towns of Fries and Pulaski.
The 35 Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“This is a remarkable achievement and demonstrates that Virginians continue to love their state parks and use them during these tough economic times,” said department director David A. Johnson.
“I’ve visited every state park, some of them many times, and local officials repeatedly tell me how important the nearby state park is to their area.
“When I recently attended the dedication of the trail center at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, I was reminded of the importance and the effectiveness of collaborative relationships among state parks, Virginians and local governments.”
Virginia State Parks directly and indirectly had an economic impact last year of $198 million, a 6 percent increase from the previous record in 2011.
“More than 2,000 jobs are created as a direct result of Virginia State Parks,” Johnson said. “Towns and communities across Virginia directly feel the impact of state parks.
“There are many state park visitors spending lots of time and money in regions of Virginia hit hardest by the downturn in the economy.”
Overnight attendance in state parks also set a record with 1,101,915 visitors, a 4 percent increase from the previous record year of 2011.
New River Trail showed a slight decline of 380 overnight visitors from 2011, from 8,385 to 8,005.
Grayson Highlands State Park had almost the same attendance as in 2011 — visits in 2012 were 143,716, a decline of 79 from 143,795 the prior year.
Hungry Mother State Park in Marion had 249,372 visitors in 2012.
“I am extremely proud of the exceptional work our staff does each year in hosting record numbers of visitors and overnight guests,” said state parks director Joe Elton.
“Our record year also saw a record storm — the Derecho — hit Virginia the last weekend of June. Twelve parks were impacted by that storm… Despite the damage coming during one of our busiest weeks of the year, during our busiest year ever, our staff worked tirelessly to get the parks back open and minimize impact on our guests.
“People love the outdoors, and they love state parks,” Elton said. “When we invest time in everything that our state parks have to offer, from hiking trails, festivals and concerts to playgrounds, camping and cabins, our state and our society reap the benefits of more healthy and happy children and families.”
• For information about state park activities and amenities, or to make reservations for one of 25 parks with camping facilities or 18 parks with cabins or family lodges, call 1-800-933-PARK or visit www.virginiastateparks.gov.