Long Islanders this year showed renewed enthusiasm for state parks, which drew nearly 2 million more visitors than in 2013 when superstorm Sandy repairs kept some popular venues closed for months, officials said.
"I think that attendance is up because the parks are back in business, repaired, and with the quality that our community expects," said Wayne Horsley, regional director of Long Island state parks.
From Jan. 1 to July 31, 10.65 million people visited the Island's state parks, compared with 8.73 million a year ago.
Last year, Robert Moses State Park did not reopen until May 23, making it the last Long Island state park to do so. Closures and limited access also crimped visits for part of 2013 to Jones Beach, Sunken Meadow and other locations.
For the first seven months this year, the five most popular parks were: Jones Beach, 3.10 million visitors; Robert Moses, 1.96 million; Sunken Meadow, 1.12 million; Captree, 625,275; and Heckscher, 551,930.
The 2014 turnaround has taken hold despite one of the coolest summers in years.
Still, park attendance this year trails the 11.39 million set in January-July 2012, a 14-year high, a state official said.
Horsley said the 2012 summer was hotter than normal with a lot of days topping 90 degrees, but he's still hoping for a sizzling end to this August -- luring big crowds to beaches and parks.
"If we have a couple of hot days before the end of summer, we'll be back where we left off in 2012," he said.