AUGUSTA, Maine – Capping an already phenomenal year, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, under the Maine Department of Conservation, announced Wednesday that more than 2.6 million people visited Maine’s 48 state parks and historic sites in 2010.
The final annual figure for total attendance – 2,602,097 for combined day use and camping — shows that more people visited the state properties in 2010 than in any year in the previous 20 years, according to Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) statistics.
That overall number also is 10.8 percent higher than last year’s figure of 2,348,328. The state parks and historic sites showed similar percentage increases in day use, at 10.6 percent, and camping, at 12.7 percent.
“These figures clearly show how valued Maine state parks are by all our visitors,” Commissioner Eliza Townsend of the Maine Department of Conservation, said Wednesday. “I am so proud of our dedicated parks staff who worked very hard to welcome 300,000 more visitors than the previous year to our wonderful sites by providing interesting programs and well-cared-for facilities. And they did it with fewer staff and fewer resources at a time of tremendous budget difficulties.”
“Our 75th year has certainly been a banner year for all of us in Parks and Lands,” Will Harris, BPL director, said. “These attendance numbers show two things — the exceptional work and dedication of our staff, and the eagerness of Maine’s citizens and visitors to enjoy recreating in our state parks and historic sites.
“We have worked hard to offer a meaningful recreational experience that is fun, healthy affordable and adds to the tourism economy of the state of Maine,” Harris continued. “We thank everyone who visited us this past year and invite them back again this year.”
The BPL attendance figures highlight an already successful 75th anniversary year for the Maine state parks, one in which more revenue in the history of state parks was returned to the state’s General Fund and more park passes than ever were sold. A total of $3.4 million in revenues has been returned to the General Fund for fiscal year 2010. More than 11,000 vehicle and individual park passes were sold.
The Maine state parks system was established in 1935 when the Maine Legislature formed the Maine State Parks Commission. Aroostook State Park became the state’s first state park in 1938 when a group of local businessmen donated 100 acres of land for the park.
This 75th anniversary year has been marked by new efforts at providing information about the parks, including the very popular Maine State Parks Passport program; increased efforts at programs throughout the year, including winter family fun days and fall foliage hikes; and investment, with the completion of new facilities and infrastructure with funding from the $7.5 million November 2007 bond. Excellent seasonal weather also contributed to the high attendance, BPL officials said.
In a side note, a study by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center in Orono has shown that for every $1 invested in parks, there is a $25 return. Maine state parks contribute about $95 million annually to the Maine economy.
According to BPL figures, the next year for highest total attendance occurred in 2001, when more than 2.5 million people visited the state parks.
Day use for 2010 was at 2,351993, while camping overnights totaled 250,104.
The most popular park for day use in 2010 was Reid State Park in Georgetown, with 181,149 visitors, a 17.1 percent increase over last year’s number of 154,645. The next most popular was Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg, with 177,534 visitors, down slightly by 1.9 percent from the previous year’s figure of 181,061. The third most popular park for day use was Sebago Lake State Park in Casco, with 164,498 visitors, up by a whopping 35.6 percent over the previous year’s figure of 121,315.
The most popular state park campground was Sebago Lake, with 91,588 overnights, up by 8.8 percent over last year’s figure of 84,173. The second most popular is Camden Hills State Park in Camden, with 27,144, up by 16 percent over the previous year of 23,403. Mount Blue State Park in Weld came in third, with 23,159 overnights, up by 8.5 percent from 21,337 in 2009.
Three campgrounds showed exceptional growth in overnight attendance in 2010; Bradbury Mountain State Park in Freeport, up 44.8 percent from 6,103 to 8,836; Peaks-Kenny State Park in Dover-Foxcroft, up 31.4 percent from 9203 to 12096; and Lamoine State Park in Lamoine, up 22.1 percent from 15,171 to 18,521.
2011 already has started off well, with numerous people taking advantage of mild New Year’s Day weather to visit the state park beaches. A series of winter park events also will be announced shortly to encourage park visitation. Seasonal passes for this year already are on sale. Campground reservations will be open as of Feb. 1 for Sebago Lake, and Feb. 2 for all other campgrounds.
January 5, 2011