2021 Was Another Record Year for State Parks

Statewide attendance climbs more than 427,000, Niagara Falls leads the way

New York’s state parks, historic sites, campgrounds and trails welcomed a record-setting 78.4 million visits in 2021, continuing the robust level of visitation seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Total visits statewide increased in 2021 by more than 427,000, driven by a dramatic rebound of more than 3 million visitors at Niagara Falls State Park compared to 2020, when international border tourism was curtailed due to COVID protocols. More than 9 million visitors went to Niagara Falls State Park last year.

“I am grateful that even more people decided they wanted to go to our State Parks and Historic Sites in 2021, even as other recreation options were becoming more available to them,” said Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of state parks. “New York has invested significantly in recent years to make its facilities world-class and even more improvements are coming.” 

State park attendance has been steadily climbing, rising 41 percent since 2008. In addition to the total attendance, State Parks also set a new record for 2021 overnight visitation at campgrounds, with campsite, cabins and cottages booked for more than 787,000 nights.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget includes $200 million in capital funding for state parks, an 80-percent increase from the current level, to enhance the NY Parks 100 capital initiative. NY Parks 100 will focus on creating places to recreate locally, relieving overcrowded parks, welcoming new visitors, and protecting New York State’s environmental and historic legacy. 

Major park projects completed since the onset of the pandemic included the opening of a first-of-its kind Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park, expansion of Niagara Falls State Park to improve access to the Niagara Gorge by removing a section of the former Robert Moses Parkway, an expanded Purple Heart Hall of Honor in Windsor, and more.