A record 15.6 million people attended state parks and recreation areas last year, 10 percent more than in 2013, the state announced Wednesday.
Twenty-seven of the state’s 39 parks and recreation areas saw an increase in attendance last year, according to the state Division of Parks and Recreation. William B. Umstead State Park reported the highest attendance, with 1.29 million visits, while the recreation areas at Falls, Jordan and Kerr lakes also received more than 1 million visitors.
State officials say several factors contributed to the overall increase, including special events such as planned hikes on New Year’s Day and National Trails Day in June and a paddle festival at Hammocks Beach State Park. In addition, no parks were closed for extended periods because of weather or construction.
The state’s newest park, Carvers Creek in Cumberland County, reported 74,220 visitors in its first full year of operation.
The state parks system covers more than 223,000 acres, including six new state parks since 2003. State officials say attendance at state parks and recreation areas has nearly doubled in the past 25 years.