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Long Island

LI state park attendance declines due to weather damage

Damage to Long Island's state parks from superstorm Sandy led to a decline in attendance in 2013, the fourth year in a row that weather problems have kept people away.

Regional park attendance slid because of Sandy, which hit in fall 2012, Tropical Storm Irene the previous year and other weather problems before that, a state parks official said. But the trend statewide has been generally upward since 2008, according to statistics released Wednesday by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Statewide, the total attendance of more than 60.1 million in 2013 was down by 200,000 from the previous year. Campgrounds experienced their busiest year on record as dozens of parks across the state received improvements from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's New York Works initiative, the agency said.

"It was a banner year for many of our popular upstate tourism destinations, and state parks on Long Island rebounded strongly" after damage from Sandy was repaired, commissioner Rose Harvey said.

On Long Island, the attendance was 16.7 million last year, 18.9 million in 2012, 19.1 million in 2011 and 19.4 million in 2010.

"The weather definitely affected 2013," said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director of state parks. "Irene affected the 2012 attendance. We generally get about 19 million or more a year on average for the last few years."

Gorman noted that because of Sandy damage, "the Jones Beach boardwalk did not open until the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. The public was under the impression that Jones Beach was still closed although it was open and only the boardwalk was closed but there were minimal services. Robert Moses was closed until the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend as well." Sandy damage kept Orient Beach closed until April.

Jones Beach saw 3.9 million visitors last year, down from 5.2 million the year before. Robert Moses had 2.6 million, down from 3.3 million the year earlier. But Orient Beach had 412,562 compared with 399,216, and attendance was up at many of the other Island parks.

The New York Works initiative in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets included $179 million for improvements at 81 state parks and historic sites. A third round of $90 million is included in the 2014-15 executive budget.

"As park facilities continue to be upgraded and New Yorkers continue to seek nearby, affordable gateways to the great outdoors, this upward visitation trend will undoubtedly continue," said Robin Dropkin, executive director of the advocacy group Parks & Trails New York.


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