Jockey’s Ridge State Park again staked its claim to being the most popular in North Carolina as the state park system set a new record for total visitors in 2020, according to OBX Today.
State parks and recreation areas welcomed 19.8 million visitors last year — 400,000 more than any other year on record and 1.2 million more visitors than in 2019. The previous record for visitation was set in 2017 when the parks welcomed 19.4 million visitors.
“As we came together to face the pandemic, our state parks became a comfort in a time of isolation,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “The records set in park visitation show that our outdoor spaces hold even greater value than we could have imagined before the challenges of the last year.”
Park staff attribute the increased visitation not only to public recognition that outdoor recreation promotes better health during the pandemic but also to recently completed Connect N.C. Bond projects at parks across the state. These projects include improved and expanded campground facilities, new trails and visitor centers and improved parking and access.
“State Parks staff have done an extraordinary job welcoming guests, protecting natural resources, and ensuring public safety during the pandemic,” said Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary D. Reid Wilson. “These outstanding public servants look forward to continuing to welcome and serve park visitors in 2021.”
Among 41 state parks and recreation areas, 28 reported increases in visitation in 2020, despite the majority of parks being closed for weeks at the outset of the pandemic.
Jockeys Ridge State Park in Nags Head reported the highest visitation at 1.9 million and was among seven state park units that welcomed more than a million visitors.