ANNAPOLIS — If you thought people stayed home last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, think again. Maryland State Parks for the second year in a row had record attendance with the numbers for 2020 surpassing 2019 by 45%.
Locally Janes Island State Park outpaced the state with a 70% increase with 105,526 visitors reported. The number for 2019 was 62,275.
Final attendance figures showed parks statewide welcomed 21.5 million visitors compared to 14.9 million in 2019 with 11 parks like Janes Island closing a combined 292 times because they reached capacity.
Starting with a record turnout for First Day hikes on Jan. 1, 2020 visitation continued to rise despite the arrival of COVID-19 in the late winter and early spring. It was interrupted by pandemic-related temporary closures of campgrounds, cabins and beaches but those closures were lifted before Memorial Day.
“The Maryland Park Service is proud to have provided a safe haven over the past year for so many Marylanders who discovered the natural beauty of state parks in their own backyard,” said Nita Settina, parks superintendent. “It is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of state park employees that they were able to keep the parks open by implementing new COVID-19 procedures to ensure that visitors would remain safe while reconnecting with nature.”
For Crisfield these are the kinds of numbers that should help lift the economy, especially if the “Crisfield 24” plan packs the tourist season calendar full of weekend events.
City Council Vice President Eric Bank said based on attendance of 100,000 alone if each person would spend $20 in the city that would put $2 million into circulation.
He has personally seen the impact of rising park attendance at his Fire Wagon BBQ, and is behind the Crisfield 24 effort. The calendar is already being punched up to include new events such as radio-control (RC) car races during March Madness and the Scorchy Tawes Classic fishing tournament which will be added to long-standing favorites like the Crab Derby, Soft Shell Festival and Freedom Fest.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford in making the announcement about state park attendance said, “more Marylanders are finding affordable, socially-distant, and family-friendly recreation opportunities at our parks and public lands.”
He has on his bucket list to visit all of the state parks and while he has been to the Pocomoke River State Park he has yet to visit Janes Island.