ALBANY, N.Y. -- -- Attendance at New York parks grew 6 percent last year and has soared 21 percent over the last six years, state records showed.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has invested heavily in the nation's oldest parks system in both infrastructure improvements and ads. And the records indicated the parks have benefited with record attendance.
Visitors to the state's 180 state parks and 35 historic sites grew to 69.3 million visitors in 2016, a 3.9 million increase from 2015, the state Parks Department's data showed.
“New York parks are the heart of the tourism economy, and these numbers show that more and more people are discovering their unparalleled natural beauty and recreation opportunities that are available in every corner of the state," Cuomo said in a statement Friday.
Some local parks were the beneficiary of the state's investment, and good weather last summer helped spur the increase, parks officials said.
The Finger Lakes region, though, had just a 1 percent increase in attendance at its parks, records showed.
The Seneca Lake State Park saw a 54 percent increase in park attendance in 2016, from 132,622 in 2015 to 203,580.
Also, Hamlin Beach park's attendance rose 10 percent to 361,000 last year.
Some parks saw a drop off: The largest decline was at Durand Eastman in Monroe County, where attendance went from 23,982 in 2015 to 19,505 in 2016, resulting in a 19 percent decline.
The most visited park in the region is Letchworth, but attendance there fell 8 percent last year after a record setting 2015 when more than 850,000 people visited.
The park received national attention in 2015 when it was named won the the USA TODAY Best Readers' Choice award for Best State Park in the nation.
"We were still above the norm if you compare it to previous year. 2015 was just an exceptional year," said Roland Beck, the park's general manager.
Parks in the southern Finger Lakes saw a bigger increase in attendance: up 8 percent.
The overall increase is promising for the state’s local economy and tourism sector, according to Rose Harvey, commissioner of the Office of Recreation and Historic Preservation.
"We’re very pleased to see this growth in the Finger Lakes and pleased the governor is investing in the parks because they are a huge draw for the region," said Cindy Kimble, president of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance.
The most visited state park in New York is at Niagara Falls, where attendance hit 9.5 million last year, up 2 percent from 2015.
The improvements statewide this year included reopening of the West Bathhouse at Jones Beach on Long Island and launching the Connect Kids to Parks initiative which offers free park entry to fourth graders and extending the swimming season to after Labor Day this past summer.
The state's NY Parks 2020 initiative is investing $900 million in private and public funding from 2011 to 2020.
The proposed state budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1 includes an additional $120 million for park upgrades.
The state also invests heavily in ads through its "I Love NY" program.
The state allocated $50 million a year for the past five years under New York's "Open for Business" marketing campaign, which includes "I Love NY" ads.
The money was bumped up to $55 million last fall and includes some spending to expand its welcome centers.
The state also added more than 500 signs along state highways to promote upstate tourism, yet the welcome centers and the signs are part of a dispute with the federal government over their legality.