Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh drew 8.4 million visitors...

Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh drew 8.4 million visitors in 2022, up from 8 million the year before. Shown are beachgoers at Jones Beach during a heat wave on July 20, 2022. Credit: Brittainy Newman

New York parkgoers, campers and hikers continued their love affair with the outdoors, with the number of visits climbing 1 million to 79.5 million last year, the highest-ever total, officials said.

The rise — 43% since 2008 — also reflects capital investments begun under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that his successor is continuing, proposing another $200 million in her latest budget. 

"From Niagara Falls to Bear Mountain to Jones Beach, New York's State Parks offer residents and visitors the opportunity to reconnect with the environment, breathe in the fresh air, and find solace in their natural surroundings," Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

"Our recent investment to revitalize the park system, expand open space, and protect our coastlines will ensure that generations to come can enjoy the diverse environment that this state has to offer." 

However, Long Island’s state parks were a bit of an outlier, with a few of its most popular sites — Captree, Heckscher, Robert Moses and Sunken Meadow — attracting fewer visitors.

“This is still the second busiest summer we’ve ever had — and that in and of itself is telling,” said George Gorman, Long Island regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Dan Keefe, a parks spokesman, focused on the long-term increases, saying: “Obviously, there are some shifts in the year-to-year trend.”

Last summer, the weather was more consistent, so visitors were not “overloaded on the weekends that were nice,” which is what happened during the summer of 2021, Gorman said, recalling a series of rainy weekdays.

Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh once again was the downstate star, with 8.4 million visitors, up from 8 million.

Yet Niagara Falls kept its crown, drawing almost 9.4 million people.

Captree drew 1.62 million visitors, down from 1.64 million; Hecksher totaled 1.33 million, off from 1.39 million; Robert Moses toted up 3.8 million, down from 4.1 million, officials said.

Gilgo attracted only 189,000, down from 288,000.

However, Montauk Point gained, posting 1.29 million, up from 1.26 million.

“Part of the answer might be reverting to norm, as movie theaters and bars opened up; it might be something like that,” said Carter Strickland, New York state director of The Trust for the Public Land, a San Francisco nonprofit.

Strickland pointed to one possible impediment — and a way to counter it.

“We need to work on making sure that access to parks is open to folks who don’t have cars … and want to bike and walk to a park — and that’s why we think a Greenway connection to parks is a winning strategy,” Strickland said.

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