Visitors swarm state parks during pandemic
July 21, 2020
North Carolina’s state parks have been inundated with record-breaking numbers of visitors this summer compared to last, according to state park officials.
Over the 4th of July weekend, Carolina Beach had a visitor increase of 138 percent from last summer. Raven Rock State Park in Lillington and Stone Mountain in Roaring Gap both received more than 100 percent more visitors this year compared to last.
Crowders Mountain, which already deals with over-crowding because of its proximity to Charlotte and the Triad, received more than 100,000 visitors in June, breaking the previous record of 92,534 in 2018.
Weekends in June and July have been so busy that state parks, via their official Facebook page, have asked visitors to reschedule their visits, as specific parks reach capacity early in the day.
“The dramatic increase in visitation in some of our parks have shown us the critical importance of state parks to our citizens, particularly during this difficult time,” said Katie Hall of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation. “People are seeking outdoor experiences for both relaxation and active recreation as a way to process the big changes and stressors our citizens have faced in their lives due to COVID-19.”
However, Ms. Hall said that staff is stretched thin across the state. More visitors lead to more trail erosion, which is expensive to fix. Off-trail hiking, vandalism and littering have all been on the rise during COVID-19.
State park officials are asking that visitors follow social distancing guidelines, wear a face mask, avoid touching surfaces or asking others to snap a photo for them. And of course, to stay home if visitors are experiencing symptoms.
As of July 21, all inland beaches and swim areas were still closed.
Here's how much busier some state parks were over Memorial Day this year compared to last:
- Eno River visitation was 58 percent higher than 2019 Memorial Day Weekend
- Fort Fisher State Recreation Area visitation was 46 percent higher than 2019 Memorial Day Weekend
- Carolina Beach was 98 percent higher than 2019 for Memorial Day Weekend
- Hammocks Beach was 58 percent higher
- Raven Rock was 85 percent higher
- Umstead was 20 percent higher