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Economic benefit from LI national parks rises, report says

Davis Park on Fire Island is seen from

Davis Park on Fire Island is seen from the air in this photo take on Aug. 5, 2013. Credit: Doug Kuntz

Long Island's national parks generated an economic benefit for the region of nearly $21.5 million last year, according to a National Park Service report.

That benefit, which includes estimated spending and supported jobs within 60 miles, represents an increase of more than $6 million from 2013, the agency said.

The Fire Island National Seashore and Sagamore Hill National Historic Site both drew more visitors in 2014.

Fire Island was visited by 383,343 people, up from 294,719 the previous year but still down from the 403,334 visitors in 2012 -- before superstorm Sandy ravaged the region.

The west end of the barrier island was closed through May and it took most of the year to reopen some boardwalks, said Elizabeth Rogers, a parks service spokeswoman.

The national seashore supported 188 tourism-related jobs in the region last year, with visitors spending nearly $16 million, the agency said.

Sagamore Hill supported 13 jobs and visitor spending totaled just over $1 million last year, according to the report.

Attendance at the Cove Neck park, Theodore Roosevelt's "Summer White House," increased slightly in 2014 -- from 15,000 the previous year to 19,000.

The closure of the hilltop mansion for a three-year, $10 million renovation has sharply reduced attendance at the park. In 2011, the last year before tours were suspended, Sagamore Hill drew more than 53,000 visitors, said Martin Christiansen, the park's chief of visitor services.

On July 12, the mansion is scheduled to reopen. Pent-up demand and interest sparked by the 2014 Ken Burns documentary "The Roosevelts" is expected to boost visitation.

"We do anticipate that this year attendance will probably spike to over 60,000," Christiansen said.

In addition to sealing the home's foundation and installing a new roof, security and other systems, the upgrades include recreating one of the home's original features, a light shaft that also helps cool the building, Christiansen said. He likened it to a modern-day skylight, though this one features stained-glass panels.

During the renovation, the grounds and woods that drew the 26th president to the North Shore remained open, along with a museum and visitor center.

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