Use of State Parks Rises as Visits to National Park Drop - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Little Rock, AR

Use of State Parks Rises as Visits to National Park Drop

SEPTEMBER 1, 2006 - Posted at 2:21 p.m. CDT


LITTLE ROCK, AR - State figures show the number of people visiting Arkansas' state parks has risen by 19.5 percent since 2001, even as visitation to national parks declines around the country.

Visitation is tracked at 42 state parks out of 51 parks altogether.  At those parks, the numbers of visitors rose from about 8.6 million in 2001 to nearly 10.3 million people last year.  The National Park Service has seen its visitation total drop about 4.8 percent since 1999.

Joe Jacobs, director of marketing and revenue for the Arkansas Division of State Parks, says expensive gasoline could be fueling the rise in visitors.  He says records at parks with lodges, like Petit Jean atop the mountain of the same name in central Arkansas, or DeGray on the lake by that name in southwest Arkansas, show that they attract not only Arkansans but also Oklahomans, Texans and Missourians.  Jacobs said Arkansas parks get a lot of business from states adjacent to Arkansas because people aren't traveling as far as they may have in the past.

But he said fuel prices are probably not the only factor boosting visitor numbers to state parks.  He cited revamped marketing strategies and renovated facilities that also could account for the rise.  According to Jacobs, visitors are, "very much wowed" by what they find when they visit an Arkansas park for the first time, and many of them come back.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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