DE State Parks

Delaware State Parks on track to set visitation record

Charles MegginsonCulture, Headlines

DE State Parks

Left to right: Cape Henlopen State Park, Alapocas Run State Park, Brandywine Creek State Park. (DNREC)

After breaking attendance records in 2021, Delaware State Parks is on pace to set another visitor attendance mark by the end of 2022, DNREC announced Friday.

In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation had 47,250 active annual passes that allow daily entry into Delaware State Parks compared with 61,744 in 2021, a 31% increase.

As of April 30, 39,959 individuals had purchased an annual pass within the first two months of sales – surpassing the 39,568 passes purchased by the same date in 2021 despite two fewer months of sales.

Park passes typically go on sale in December, but sales for 2022 were delayed until February due to nationwide supply-chain disruptions.

Visitation to Delaware’s 17 state parks and the Brandywine Zoo has increased by 30% in the last five years, from 6.1 million in 2017 to 7.9 million in 2021, and is up 78% over the last decade.

“The incredible interest our Delaware State Parks have experienced since the start of the pandemic is here to stay. Like never before, the public recognizes the many benefits the nation’s best state parks offer for our health and wellbeing,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “I am incredibly proud of how our parks staff continues to meet the challenges that come with increased demand and usage of all our venues and amenities.”

Usage on some park trails has increased more than 70% during the pandemic, boat rentals at the inland pond parks increased by 24%, and the state-owned Deerfield and Garrison’s Lake golf courses saw record-breaking numbers of rounds of golf played with an increase of 37%.

Visitation to the Delaware State Parks beaches also grew, causing parking lots at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks to reach capacity, resulting in 69 lot closures in 2021.

While it is common for day-use parking lots at beach parks to reach capacity on busy summer weekends, 16 of the lot closures in 2021 occurred on weekdays.

Camping and cabin reservations at Delaware State Parks have increased more than 30%, with 153,582 nights booked in 2021 compared to 117,471 nights booked in 2019.

While summer has historically been the most popular time to camp in Delaware State Parks, camping and cabin reservations during the off-season started to increase in fall 2020 and continue to trend upward.

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