SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Did you visit one of Utah’s many state parks during 2020? You were not alone.
From 2019 to 2020, the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation saw an uptick in state park visitation – an increase of over 2.6 million, to be exact.
The Utah Department of Natural Resources reports that in 2020, the total number of state park visitors was almost 10.6 million, an increase of 33% from the just under 8 million who visited Utah’s 44 state parks in 2019.
“Our state parks saw elevated visitation numbers throughout the traditional summer season,” Jeff Rasmussen, Utah Division of Parks and Recreation Director, says. “Not only that, but record-breaking visitation continued into the fall and winter, and has not tapered off like it normally does.”
The DNR says there was a decrease in visitation early on in the spring of 2020 due to restrictions at the start of the pandemic, but Utahns and non-residents alike soon flocked to state parks once restrictions were lifted.
Since then, the DNR reports that an increased visitation has been common month after month.
“We never closed our doors to the public. While there was a time when visitation was restricted due to local health orders, we were always open,” Rasmussen explains. “Access to outdoor recreation is something many Utahns consider an essential part of their life. Our managers, rangers, and staff all worked hard to make this happen. We’re happy we were able to bring some joy to visitors and help keep local economies going in these unprecedented times.”
Visitation increases were not limited to the state parks – many popular boating and off-highway vehicle areas across Utah also reported increased use. The DNR says the statewide OHV and boating programs saw an increase in the numbers of registered boats and non-resident OHV permits compared to previous years.
Officials say they expect visitation numbers to remain high through 2021.
While many visitors are familiar with the outdoors and the best practices and ethics associated with them, many are new to the outdoor recreation arena. The Division of Parks and Recreation says that, because of this, they are reminding all visitors to continue practicing responsible recreation by social distancing, not congregating at trailheads, checking park conditions and capacity levels before getting on the road, keeping recreation areas clean by packing out what you bring in, and disposing of trash in the appropriate facilities.