01/10/10 — Visitors at Cliffs increased in 2009

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Visitors at Cliffs increased in 2009

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 10, 2010 1:50 AM

Attendance in North Carolina's state parks jumped 13 percent in 2009, and at the Cliffs of the Neuse in Seven Springs, that increase was even more dramatic -- 42 percent.

Park Superintendent Lyndon Sutton credited the park's improved programming with the increase in attendance.

"Our No. 1 goal is education. That's always been our main goal. A few years ago, we weren't fully staffed. Now that we have a full staff (three rangers plus himself) we can offer our full programming," Sutton said.

He also said the state's new booking system also helped drive traffic to the park, making it easier to reserve camp sites, shelters and other facilities.

Additionally, he said the slumping economy made the Cliffs and other state parks attractive to visitors locally and across North Carolina.

"I noticed that, too. A lot of people are choosing to stay home. I noticed there was a large increase in the numbers there," Sutton said.

And he said he hopes the numbers will be even better in 2010, especially with the park's new visitor's center set to be finished by about mid-May.

"We're looking forward to moving into that -- maybe by June. We'll be able to provide even more programs then," he said.

For the Cliffs' attendance increased from 127,571 in 2008 to 181,730 in 2009.

The state also released a study showing that in 2008, the state parks systems had an annual economic impact of more than $400 million, "much of it in direct contributions to local tourism economies," Lewis Ledford, state parks director, said in a written statement. The study, done by N.C. State University's Department of Parks Recreation and Touri-sm Management, found that tourist visitors spend an average of $23.56 per day to enjoy state parks.