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Most Long Island state parks saw more visitors in 2016, officials say

Jones Beach was New York's most popular park

Jones Beach was New York's most popular park last year, with 5.9 million visitors, a 1 percent increase over 2015, officials said. The Fourth of July celebration was one of the biggest events there last year. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Most of Long Island’s state parks attracted more visitors last year, officials said, attributing the popularity to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s renovation program.

The Island has most of the state’s most popular parks, led by Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, visited by 5.9 million, a 1 percent increase over 2015; Robert Moses State Park in Babylon, up 8 percent to almost 4.3 million; and Sunken Meadow State Park in Smithtown, where attendance rose 30 percent to nearly 2.9 million.

Upgrades, including overhauled bathhouses, solar panels and an improved golf course, are underway or have been completed at all three parks — part of Cuomo’s plan to invest $900 million in state parks over 10 years.

Attendance at state parks overall rose to 69.3 million last year, besting the 2015 record by 3.9 million, officials.

Attendance slipped last year at only seven of the Island’s nearly 30 parks, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said.

The biggest declines were at Heckscher State Park in East Islip (15 percent); Orient Beach State Park, (19 percent); and Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay, (6 percent), the agency said.

Attendance at Heckscher might still be suffering from the shutting of its giant swimming pool in 2011 after it fell into disrepair, and the closure of its campground in 2010 after the West Nile virus was detected, officials said.

Though the agency has no plans to renovate Heckscher’s pool, in December it said rental cottages were being designed that will overlook the Great South Bay, with construction expected to begin in 2018.

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