Neb. Park Visitation Drops, But Above Average
Visitors to Nebraska's state parks and recreational areas are buying fewer entrance permits this year than at the same point in 2012, but the numbers are still above average after a surge in sales last year.
The Associated Press reported that the state has sold 336,425 park-entrance permits as of July 31 — about 25,000 fewer than at the same time last year, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The number of annual and daily permits was down, as was the number of "duplicate" passes sold at half price to visitors who want to register more than one vehicle.
Still, the number of permits sold was above the state's five-year average. The sales have generated $4.6 million in revenue so far this year, down from the nearly $4.9 million during the same period in 2012 but well above recent years.
Game and Parks officials said an unusually mild winter and early spring helped boost last year's permit sales, as did the lack of the rain. This year has proven more seasonal because of greater rainfall, and permit sales have returned to more normal levels, said Patrick Cole, the commission's budget director.
"Memorial Day tends to be our peak time," Cole said. "Last year, the weather was beautiful. It was nice even into early March."
Cole said most of the permits sell in the first half of the year, as families prepare for summer vacations. The parks often see a last-minute spike in attendance in late July and early August, he said, as many families squeeze in a last-minute trip before schools starts.
Nebraska has eight state parks, 59 state recreation areas and 10 state historical parks, all of which require a park permit to enter.
Despite the reduced sales, park administrators said attendance at Nebraska's parks has remained strong, and many of the camp sites have stayed at capacity. Parks officials said they won't know exact attendance until the end of the year.
"This year has been pretty good," said Jim Fuller, an assistant division administrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. "We've had some rains, but they haven't been heavy rains. Many of the parks have been busy all summer long, and these past few weeks have been extraordinarily busy."
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