Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that visitation to North Carolina's state sites, attractions and museums is up compared to last year. From Fiscal Year 2014-15 to Fiscal Year 2015-16 ending June 30, 2016, total visitation to the state's natural and cultural sites increased by nearly 1.8 million visitors, or 7.7 percent.
“Data shows that visitors from within our state and across the country and world are flocking to North Carolina to experience our natural beauty and quality of life that is second to none,” Governor McCrory said. “As our population continues to increase and more people visit our state, strategic investments in our state parks, the zoo and overall quality of life will prepare our state for future growth.”
The top five divisions within the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources that experienced increased attendance were the North Carolina Museum of Art, which saw an increase of 34.4 percent, North Carolina State Parks, which saw an increase of 11 percent, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, which saw an increase of 5.3 percent, the North Carolina Zoo, which saw an increase of 4.7 percent, and the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, which saw an increase of 4.4 percent. Four of these divisions experienced the best attendance levels they have seen in the last five years.
In addition to the Fiscal Year comparison, the 11.7 million visitors to the North Carolina State Parks system through the end of July is a 10 percent increase over midsummer visitation of 10.6 million in 2015. Total state parks visitation in 2015 was a record 17.3 million. If the trend continues through the end of 2016, that record is likely to be surpassed.
Among 39 state parks and state recreation areas, 29 recorded increases in visitation above 2015 levels. William B. Umstead State Park in Wake County reported the highest visitation through July of 1.06 million. Others reporting visitation of at least 500,000 were Lake Norman, Jockey’s Ridge and Fort Macon state parks and Jordan Lake, Falls Lake, Kerr Lake and Fort Fisher state recreation areas.
“Along with inspiring landscapes, North Carolina State Parks offer an appealing array of activities,” said Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz. “There are more than 600 miles of trails for hikers and runners, as well as opportunities for mountain biking, kayaking and canoeing, horseback riding, rock climbing and more recreation opportunities that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.”
To prepare for future growth and increased visitation at state attractions, Governor McCrory championed the Connect NC bond. Overwhelmingly approved by North Carolina voters, Connect NC included $100 million for needed infrastructure including education facilities and visitor centers at state parks throughout the state and the North Carolina Zoo.