State parks attendance up nearly 8% in 2009

Posted Jan. 06, 2010, at 6:39 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Final figures for 2009 show that Maine state parks showed an almost 8 percent increase in both day use and camping over the previous year, despite wet summer weather and a poor economy.

The state Department of Conservation said this week that total attendance for the year was the largest in the past seven years. The numbers show an increase of 7.6 percent, more than 165,000 more visits, were made to the state parks last year than in 2008, according to figures from the department’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

The nightly occupancy rate at Maine’s 12 state campgrounds was up overall by 1 percent, while the day use visits were up by 8.3 percent, officials said.

“We are very pleased with these numbers, and they show how much Maine people and other visitors value our state parks,” said acting Conservation Commissioner Eliza Townsend. “We hope for an even greater increase this year as we enter our 75th anniversary of the founding of the Maine state park system.”

BPL oversees 47 state parks and historic sites including salt- and fresh-water beaches. A total of 12 of those parks have public camping. The Maine state parks and historic sites contribute more than $100 million annually to the state economy.

Park attendance was strong for the early part of the 2009 park season, with significant attendance in April and May and strong sales of park passes despite poor economic conditions statewide. Unusually rainy weather for the rest of the summer, including 60 days of rain, however, had led to an expectation of a reduction in the number of park visits.

Figures released Tuesday nonetheless show a significant increase in total attendance, increasing from 2.18 million visits in 2008 to 2.34 million visits. It is the largest attendance in the past seven years, with 2007 as the year with the next highest attendance at 2.31 million.

The most popular campgrounds continue to be Sebago Lake (84,173 overnights), Camden Hills (23,403 overnights) and Mount Blue (21,337 overnights). Eight of the state campgrounds saw increases in nightly occupancy, with the greatest increases at Warren Island (10.7 percent) and Aroostook (9.2 percent) state parks.

Significant increases in visits to state parks were seen at a number of state parks, including Fort Point (71.7 percent); Kettle Cove (49.7 percent); Damariscotta Lake (36.1 percent); Quoddy Head (35.5 percent); Holbrook Island (27 percent); Bradbury Mountain (24.5 percent); and Eagle Island (20.2 percent).

BPL officials expect a strong show of interest in Maine’s state parks with the celebration of the system’s 75th anniversary year. In recognition, many of the parks and historic sites are planning numerous activities, including family fun days, nature watching events, and historic presentations.

Park campground reservations will open on Feb. 1 for Sebago Lake State Park and for all campgrounds on Feb. 8.

For information about Maine state parks, go to: http://www.parksandlands.com

For information about Maine state campground reservations, go to: http://www.campwithme.com

For information about Maine park passes, go to: http://www.mainestateparkpass.com

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/01/06/business/state-parks-attendance-up-nearly-8-in-2009/ printed on August 23, 2014