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New York State Parks see record attendance in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic had people looking for socially distant activities which brought millions out to NY Parks.

ALBANY, N.Y. — The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to look outside for socially distant activities. That led to a record setting year for New York State Parks.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that the state's parks, historic sites, campgrounds, and trails welcomed 78 million visitors last year. That is about a million more visitors than 2019. 

The state says the record number comes even as some of the most popular parks and beaches dealt with the impacts of the pandemic. Many sites had to operate at a reduced capacity, deal with the impacts of limited out-of-state and international visitors or cancel large concerts, festivals and events.

Here in Western New York, over the summer and fall there were several days at popular parks like Letchworth that were forced to turn away visitors because lots and trails were at capacity. 

In a statement, New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, "Last year provided families with the perfect opportunity to rediscover the natural beauty and world-class amenities of our State Parks in their own backyard."

The Governor also touted the NY Parks 2020 Plan which led to many improvements across the State Parks Department. One of the projects locally included a new recreation complex at Letchworth State Park.

Construction on the $2 million Lower Falls Recreation Area began back in April 2019. The project involved removing an unused swimming pool at the South Complex Area and restoring a historic bathhouse, which is used by Adventure Calls Outfitters. The new recreation area provides table games, badminton and pickle ball courts, bocce and shuffleboard, as well as a fitness loop.

RELATED: New recreation center opens at Letchworth State Park

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails and boat launches all across the state.