Making Sense Out Of National Park Visitation Statistics
Making sense out of National Park System visitation statistics can be tough due to faulty counters, late opening dates, and storms that close parks. All that considered, though, attendance at the parks seems to be up a bit this year through the first six months.
According to Park Service statisticians, through June total visitation from the 401 units stood at 127,659,150, an increase of roughly 3.3 million from year-earlier numbers.
Among the notable figures:
* Visitation to the Statute of Liberty National Monument was up 1.8 million over the first six months of 2013. Of course, the monument was closed through the first half of 2013 due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. Being open this year alone provided a huge boost to overall National Park System visitation.
* Castle Clinton National Monument, also closed in 2013 by hurricane damage, reported 2.1 million visits through the first half of 2014.
* Visitation to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in northern Virgina was down 887,241.
* Gateway National Recreation Area visitation was off 398,518.
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitation was up nearly 1 million -- 856,046 -- through the first half of 2014.
* Gulf Islands National Seashore visitation was down 1.4 million.
* Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park visitation was up 697,773.
* Grand Canyon National Park visitation was up 402,713.
But there were some odd figures, too, that lend to the belief that national park visitation numbers in general are soft:
* Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve in Alaska had counted just 11 visitors through the first six months of the year, and all showed up in June. And that was the same number of visitors for 2013. And they all showed up in June, too.
* Acadia National Park's June 2014 visitation was identical to June 2013 visitation: 315,791
* Other parks that reported identifical turnout for June 2013 and June 2014 included Cedar Breaks National Monument, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Cape Cod National Seashore, Buffalo National River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and quite a few others.
* That bulge in visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Far and away the bulk -- 707,629 -- all arrived in June.
To their credit, the Park Service's statisticians note that these numbers are only preliminary and could change before the final tally is made early next year.