Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced a 45 percent increase in final attendance for Maryland State Parks in 2020 compared to the previous record-setting visitation attendance in 2019. In 2020, Maryland State Parks welcomed 21.5 million visitors, compared to 14.9 million in 2019. In addition, State Parks reported a record 292 capacity closures across 11 parks statewide last year.
By September, Maryland State Parks had already eclipsed the 2019 record. Beginning with a record turnout for First Day Hikes on Jan. 1, 2020, parks experienced continued high visitor turnout as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in late winter and early spring. Records were broken despite pandemic-related temporary closures of campgrounds, cabins, and popular beaches at state parks. Those closures were lifted before Memorial Day.
“With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic changing the way we live, work, and play, more and more Marylanders are finding affordable, socially-distant, and family-friendly recreation opportunities at our parks and public lands,” said Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford, who regularly visits Maryland State Parks as part of his #LGStateParkBucketList initiative. “In rain, snow, and sun, I’ve yet to find a view to match Maryland’s natural lands.”
“Maryland State Parks are an invaluable refuge for our citizens and visitors, particularly in these difficult times,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “We are proud to provide safe outdoor recreation, a trail system that is second-to-none and unique experiences that highlight Maryland’s history and natural resources.”
From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DNR and the Maryland Park Service developed detailed response plans, based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maryland Department of Health, and the Maryland Department of Commerce. These plans served a dual purpose of protecting the health of department staff as well as park visitors. DNR continues to adapt its plans as new health advisories are issued.
“The Maryland Park Service is proud to have provided a safe haven over the past year for so many Marylanders who discovered the natural beauty of state parks in their own backyard,” said Nita Settina, Superintendent of Maryland State Parks. “It is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of state park employees that they were able to keep the parks open by implementing new COVID-19 procedures to ensure that visitors would remain safe while reconnecting with nature.”