Record 20 million people visit state parks

Missouri’s decade-long decline in attendance at its state parks has turned a major corner with a record 20 million people visiting them this year.

Among the parks with significant attendance gains in 2016 compared to the previous year are:

Castlewood State Park, over 775,000 visitors (up from 660,000)
Dr. Edmund A. Babler State Park, more than 675,000 visitors (up from 298,000)
Elephant Rocks State Park, over 345,000 visitors (up from 300,000)
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, more than 365,000 visitors (up from 318,000)
Long Branch State Park, over 442,000 visitors (up from 395,000)
Mastodon State Historic Site, more than 553,000 visitors (up from 480,000)
Onondaga Cave State Park, over 315,000 visitors (up from 254,000)
Sam A. Baker State Park, over 1,264,000 visitors (up from 1,097,000)
St. Francois State Park, over 294,000 visitors (up from 265,000)
St. Joe State Park, over 629,000 visitors (up from 579,000)
Table Rock State Park, over 1,224,000 visitors (up from 1,033,000)
Trail of Tears State Park, over 152,000 visitors (up from 105,000)
Washington State Park, over 271,000 visitors (up from 214,000)
Watkins Mill State Park & State Historic Site, has had 493,000 visitors (up from 454,000)
Weston Bend State Park, which has had 236,000 visitors (up from 181,000)

As outgoing Governor Jay Nixon (D) prepares to leave office in the coming days, he can cross this achievement off his list. In 2009, Nixon set a goal of 20 million annual visitors in the parks by 2016.

“Missourians recognize the natural treasures we have in our state parks, and again supported the renewal of the Parks, Soil and Water sales tax with its highest margin ever just last month,” says Nixon. “In turn, we’ve not only invested millions of dollars to maintain our parks and enhance the experiences of visitors, we’ve expanded our park system at the same time other states are closing or even selling their state parks. And as always, there’s no admission fee to enter and enjoy Missouri State Parks.”

Earlier this month, Nixon announced that the number of visitors to Missouri hit an all-time record of 41.7 million. An economic impact study found that visitors to state parks produced an overall economic impact of $1.02 billion and supported more than 14,000 Missouri jobs.