ALBANY — Western New York state parks have seen more than 121,000 overnight camping stays in 2019 as the state parks system overall has set an all-time high for visits this year.

Western New York was third for regions in the state for overnight camping in state parks, with only the North Country/Adirondack (151,833) and Finger Lakes (127,775) regions logging more so far in 2019.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said Friday the record use of state parks was fueled by a camping discount along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River regions. Through Columbus Day, campsites, cabins, cottages and yurts at state parks campgrounds were occupied for 680,533 nights, surpassing the previous 2018 record of 663,953.

Total reservations so far this year were also up, to 213,153, surpassing the previous record of 212,358 set in 2016.

“This incredible surge illustrates how our efforts to promote and revitalize our campgrounds are working, drawing visitors and increasing tourism to the flood-affected areas of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence,” Governor Cuomo said.

“This rise in visitors experiencing the beauty of our state parks are not only enjoying a day in nature, but driving economic activity in every corner of this great state,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Since Cuomo announced the 50 percent discount Aug. 1 on fees at more than 30 campgrounds, parks and boat launches along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, those campgrounds received 10,263 new reservations. This represents about 36,000 additional visitors to a region impacted by high lake levels.

Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said the Cuomo administration has prioritized renewing and modernizing facilities.

“We are offering our visitors more amenities and choices in how they want to stay, and more people are coming,” he said.

Overnight attendance at state park campgrounds by year since 2011:

• 2011 — 541,771

• 2012 — 578,428

• 2013 — 583,016

• 2014 — 594,441

• 2015 — 623,991

• 2016 — 650,857

• 2017 — 648,420

• 2018 — 663,953

• 2019 — 680,533

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is jeckstrom@oleantimesherald.com.)

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