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Parks see surge in use

Weather, high profile attributed to higher numbers

New Yorkers are flocking to state parks this year in numbers greatly exceeding turnout last year, according to figures released by the state Office of Parks and Recreation.

Earlier this month, officials announced the season's attendance was up by 11 percent, or 1.3 million visitors. That trend continued over the holiday weekend, with a 6 percent increase in attendance over the previous year's July 4 holiday. All told, 1.9 million people visited or stayed at a state park for the holiday.

\With school out and vacations getting under way, families are looking to plan their escape. Our parks continue to be a premier destination of choice as more and more people are looking to enjoy the great outdoors, said office Commissioner Carol Ash in a statement.

The high attendance figures come after a period when it was uncertain whether some parks would be open at all for the season. In response to the ongoing state budget crisis, 55 state parks and historic sites were completely or partially closed to the public before funding was restored prior to the Memorial Day weekend.

One of those parks was John Boyd Thacher State Park in Voorheesville.

"I would say that parks have certainly been on people's minds, and as such I think people are getting out there and exploring their parks," said Office of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee. "We were in the news, and as we were in the news, maybe people were a little more thoughtful about parks in making their plans."

Still, she continued, the weather is what really has a direct correlation on park attendance. Last year, a rain-soaked spring and early summer kept folks inside and hurt park turnout.

But the fair weather in later months more than made up for the slump, said Larrabee, and nearly 56 million visits were recorded.

"Despite last year's attendance, overall our attendance was up last year," she said. "We're hoping that this is a continuing trend."

Last year, the state park system recorded nearly 56 million visits. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 178 state parks and 35 historic sites. ""

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