For North Carolina State Parks, 2011 was a great year. Over 14 million people visited the parks. And I certainly did my part.
Because of my Mountains-to-Sea trek, I visited Hanging Rock State Park, Eno River State Park and finished at Jockey’s Ridge. I also took my granddaughter camping at Lake Jordan and the family to Mt. Mitchell. Actually my whole MST hike was in a state park.
Surprisingly, Jockey’s Ridge had the most visitation. Maybe it’s because it’s close to several National Park units – Cape Hatteras, Wright Brothers and Fort Raleigh.
The experts gave lots of reasons as to the increased popularity of our state parks. The poor economy means that people are staying closer to home. State parks are for the most part free.
But state parks are also perceived as the safest place to go outdoors. They specialize in soft-core adventures. So their trails are well-marked and well-maintained. Signs are accurate and up-to-date. State Park rangers offer a lot of programs for the family. And if anything is up to snuff, they close the particular resource.
In Western North Carolina, hikers are sometimes guilty of ignoring state parks. They’re so small and “wimpy” compared to National Parks and Forests. But for most people, in and out of North Carolina, state parks is their access to nature.
You can look at the attendance figures at