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Jones Beach State Park among NY’s top 2 visitor hot spots in 2017

The Wantagh site is undergoing $65 million in renovations, including the $18 million Boardwalk Café set to open this summer.

Jack & Jack fans at the Billboard 100

Jack & Jack fans at the Billboard 100 Festival at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh on Aug. 20, 2017. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

Last summer’s weather might not have been perfect for sun-lovers, but the outdoors in 2017 drew another record number of visitors to New York State Parks.

Especially on Long Island.

Its 31 state parks were visited by about 751,273 more people in 2017 than the year before, according to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The grand total of visitors rose to 71.5 million, up from 70.6 million last year, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, though the busy summer months saw some inclement weather.

Cuomo attributed the record year to his $900 million, 10-year-plan to reverse decades of neglect.

So far, the state parks department has undertaken more than 700 upgrades.

“We have modernized the oldest state park system in the nation by making strategic investments that help entice more and more visitors to this great state to make memories with family and friends, while experiencing the natural beauty found in every New York community,” Cuomo said in a recent statement.

Between 2011, when he took office, and 2017, attendance at all 180 state parks and 35 historic sites climbed 13.6 million — a 23 percent rise, he said.

On Long Island, Wantagh’s Jones Beach State Park again was the state’s second-most visited park, trailing only Niagara Falls, the data showed.

More than 9.4 million people marveled at Niagara Falls, a 1 percent decline.

Jones Beach drew 5.95 million people, a 1 percent increase.

Popular concerts helped offset the rain and clouds.

“It was a great lineup; it looks like Jones Beach attendance would have been lower except for the fact that we had a great season at Northwell Health at the Jones Beach Theater,” said George Gorman, state parks deputy regional director for Long Island.

Jones Beach also is undergoing $65 million in renovations; one of the latest improvements is the $18 million Boardwalk Café, scheduled to open in early summer.

Last summer’s showers did clip attendance at some Long Island state parks, officials said.

Brentwood State Park suffered the biggest drop, down 24 percent, to 743,853.

Attendance slid 5 percent at Babylon’s Robert Moses State Park, to just over 4 million.

Eight percent fewer people came to Captree State Park, located in Babylon and Islip, and Farmingdale’s Bethpage State Park.

The total for Captree was 1.3 million; Bethpage’s was 757,651.

Still, some parks did achieve strong gains.

Smithtown’s Sunken Meadow State Park saw attendance spike 23 percent, to nearly 3.6 million.

Montauk Point State Park attracted 19 percent more visitors, hitting just under 1.2 million.

East Islip’s Heckscher State Park drew about 1.07 million people, up 6 percent.

“We experienced a rainy peak season last year, which makes these record-breaking numbers all the more impressive,” Randy Simons, a parks spokesman, said by email.

CORRECTION

A previous version of this story misstated the increase in the number of people who visited state parks on Long Island in 2017 over the year before.

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