New York State Park Camping Tumbles
Attendance numbers through Labor Day indicate fewer residents made use of New York's state parks and campgrounds this year than in recent summers past, the Glens Falls Post-Star reported.
While parks are generally seen as a cheaper, close-to-home means of recreation in down economic times, officials and advocates cited poor weather – from late-spring flooding to a late-summer tropical storm that closed some New York parks – for the unimpressive turnout.
"People don't go to the park when it's raining," said Dan Keefe, spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "We've had lousy late-summer weather, and the spring was wet as well. There was a slow start to the season and a slow finish."
As of Labor Day, almost 240,000 fewer people had entered Saratoga Spa State Park compared to last year, a drop of 15%.
Admission to Moreau Lake State Park was down about 14% this year, according to the state.
Both parks charge $8 per vehicle to enter, with additional fees for other activities.
Camping reservations in the Adirondacks, which account for more than 85% of reservations statewide, were down 7% through Labor Day, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Just over 900,000 reservations had been made for the 42 campgrounds the DEC operates in the Adirondacks through Labor Day, according to the department. About 135,000 reservations were made at state campgrounds elsewhere.
Camping numbers statewide fell this year and fell last year as well, according to the DEC.
About half of the state's campgrounds closed on Labor Day for the year. Twenty Adirondack campgrounds will remain open through October.
The state charges between $16 and $28 to camp overnight, depending on the campground.
The DEC has warned campers and hikers that damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene could create dangerous conditions. Because of the storm, every DEC campground in the Catskills was closed indefinitely, and state parks and historic sites on Long Island and in the Mohawk Valley – and a few locally – were affected.
Robin Dropkin, executive director of the advocacy group Parks & Trails New York, said the tropical storm had a severe impact on what might have been a busy Labor Day for state facilities. The loss could reduce revenue for the state, she said, which has often placed parks as a low priority come budget season.
"There were so many parks that were damaged or closed," she said.
She lamented the loss in funding for parks and said $67 million in improvements that were scheduled for facilities in the Capital District area are now backlogged. Reduced hours due to slashed budgets could mean fewer visitors and thus less revenue, Dropkin said.
She said statewide park attendance increased between 2009 and 2010 by just over 1 million visits because of the poor economy.
"People are staying close to home," she said.