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Maryland Parks See Surge in Usage

October 5th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Governor Larry Hogan today announced that the Maryland Park Service is reporting a total of 17.1 million visitors to date in 2020, already surpassing the previous record of 14.9 million total visitors in 2019, with three months still remaining in the year. During peak season in July, state parks attracted 3.4 million visitors, compared to 2.5 million during the same time period last year.

“As our state continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, we have consistently reminded the people of Maryland that outside activity is much safer than inside activity,” said Governor Hogan. “We are so pleased to see that Marylanders have heeded that advice by visiting our state parks in record numbers this year to exercise safely, get some fresh air, and spend time with family. I want to thank all of our park rangers and staff who have continued to provide a seamless level of service during the pandemic to ensure these valuable state resources remain accessible to Marylanders.”

Parks throughout the state have seen a significant uptick in attendance across the board, which continues a trend of recent years but has accelerated dramatically in 2020. Various parks within the system have closed due to maximum capacity a record 260 times so far in 2020, well above the ten-year annual average of 79 closures per year, and surpassing the previous record of 121. Increases have been seen in both day-use and overnight camping.

Through the end of his term, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford is attempting to visit all 75 of Maryland’s state parks. All of his visits can be tracked here.

“During these difficult times many individuals and families are turning to outdoor recreation to help them get through,” Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “Maryland features a variety of world class outdoor experiences and diverse landscapes, including our amazing state park system which can be safely enjoyed year-round.”

“We have seen tremendous interest in outdoor recreation and are encouraged to see so many Marylanders and visitors continuing to enjoy the outdoors responsibly,” Maryland Park Service Superintendent Nita Settina said. “Seeing new people experiencing the wonders and benefits of their state parks let us know that we are indeed an essential service to the people of Maryland.”

From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Maryland Park Service developed detailed response plans based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maryland Department of Health, and the Maryland Department of Commerce. These plans served a dual purpose of protecting the health of department staff as well as park visitors. DNR will continue to adapt its plans as the state enters new phases of the ‘Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery’ and new health advisories are issued.