Jockey’s Ridge most visited state park in N.C. last year

By on February 14, 2018

The park covers 426 acres of dune, maritime forest and sound shoreline. (Rob Morris)

Snow drifts of up to 3 feet at the U.S. 158 pedestrian entrance to the park during the second January snowstorm. (Sam Walker)

More than 1.5 million people visited Jockeys’ Ridge State Park in Nags Head during 2017, making it the most visited park in North Carolina’s system of 39 state parks and recreation areas.

Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest living-sand dune complex on the East Coast, saw a 19 percent increase in visitation from the previous year, growing from 1,313,423 in 2016 to 1,560,254.

It was one of six state parks to top the one million visitor mark.

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Visitation at state parks and state recreation areas has increased more than 44 percent during the last decade. In 2007, 13.5 million people visited a state park unit — 6 million fewer than last year.

State officials attribute the continued increase in visitation to new trails, improvements in parks and greater public awareness brought on by a more aggressive social media effort.

“It’s great to see more and more people seeking out our parks and enjoying some of the most beautiful places in our state,” said Gov. Roy Cooper.

Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach on the central coast was second with 1,543,772, followed by William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, Durham and Cary (1,538,830), Jordan Lake State Recreation Area south of the Triangle (1,485,956) and Kerr Lake State Recreation Area along the east-central North Carolina/Virginia border (1,120,837).

State parks and recreation areas welcomed 19.4 million visitors in 2017, a 3.4 percent increase over the 18.8 million who came during 2016. It was the fourth consecutive year of record visitation.

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“We are pleased North Carolinians and visitors to our state continue to love, enjoy and experience our parks,” Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton said.

“In 2017 we also acquired 2,075 additional acres. The acquired lands will be added to eight state parks, four state natural areas and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail,” said Hamilton.

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