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Harrisburg, Pa. -- According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, September visitor numbers at State Parks broke all existing records with a 31% increase over last year - 4.7 million guests compared to last year's 3.6 million.

Related reading: Explore Pennsylvania's wooded trails this fall

Eight parks experienced over a 100% increase: Denton Hill State Park (746.7%), Cherry Springs State Park (230.6%), Patterson State Park (168.6%), Hickory Run State Park (136.5%), Susquehannock State Park (127%), Tobyhanna State Park (114.8%), Kooser State Park (111.8%), and Cowans Gap State Park (109.8%).

Twenty-three other parks experienced attendance increases over 50%.

According to DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, campgrounds across the state have been fully booked weeks in advance, with some parks reaching capacity by 10 a.m. DCNR has also had to address overcrowding issues by adding new staff members and encouraging visitors to visit less-busy parks or forests.

Secretary Dunn added:

“Anyone can visit a state park for free, and DCNR believes it should stay that way to ensure that every Pennsylvanian can enjoy the benefits of spending time in nature regardless of their financial situation.

Increased outdoor recreation is boosting Pennsylvania’s economy, and will be crucial to the state’s financial recovery. Annually, outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania generates $29 billion in consumer spending and $1.9 billion in tax revenue while directly supporting 251,000 jobs.”

In addition to the dramatic rise in State Park usage, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council has reported that trail use increased by 52%, with some trails experiencing a 100 or 200% increase in attendance.

The threat of COVID-19 has pushed many people to the outdoors, helping some gain a new appreciation for Pennsylvania's natural resources. According to a September poll, nearly 85% of Pennsylvania voters have said that the pandemic has made open spaces and parks more important than ever before.

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