Beachgoers, hikers, kayakers, horseback riders and anglers flocked to Long Island state parks this summer, boosting visitation more than 18 percent compared with the 2014 season, officials said.
Fueling the surge was the sunny weather, including a virtually rain-free July and August, and a longer season thanks to a late Labor Day.
A total of 12.5 million people visited the Island's state parks this summer, an 18.3 percent increase over last summer and almost double the statewide rise of 9.6 percent, state data show.
There also was a late surge: 2.2 million park visitors statewide over the Labor Day holiday weekend, up from 2 million in 2014.
"Labor Day weekend capped a gorgeous summer in New York at our parks and historic sites," said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
As usual, Jones Beach, which drew 4.1 million people compared with 3.5 million last summer, and Robert Moses State Park, which attracted 2.5 million people versus 2.1 million, were the most popular destinations.
New automatic car-counters proved the popularity of Brentwood State Park, a 52-acre sport facility that was an early beneficiary of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's $900 million initiative to upgrade parks statewide by 2020. This summer, Brentwood visitation about tripled to 353,100 people; previous data based on visual estimates were undercounts, said George Gorman, deputy regional director for state parks.
Improvements to playgrounds, bath houses, restrooms, irrigation systems and trails on the Island also helped lure more visitors this summer, he said.
Among other draws were new activities, including cricket at Valley Stream State Park and a sensory garden at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay.
Special events again proved their worth, with the July Fourth fireworks show returning to Jones Beach, and the Long Island Philharmonic performing at Heckscher State Park, Gorman said. The Jones Beach air show also benefited from sunnier weather this year, he said.
At Connetquot River State Park Preserve, horseback riders and anglers enjoyed a banner summer, as few days were too hot to ride, and more trout were stocked in the river, Gorman said.The few parks where attendance slipped were clustered in the Montauk area, a downturn that puzzled officials. "We cannot give you an answer," Gorman said.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he did not know the reason either but wondered if it might indicate "a shift away from family-oriented tourism" that he wants to reverse.