The popular state parks of Maryland were again full of visitors during Memorial Day weekend, with two additional parks in the state park system this year.
Cypress Branch State Park in Kent County and Bohemia River State Park in Cecil County opened in April, totaling 53 state parks in Maryland, according to a report.
Even with the added capacity of the new parks, they did have instances when visitors were refused entry when parking spaces were crowded during the weekend that started the summer season of travel.
Maryland State Park Superintendent Nita Settina said the state “is continuously working to open new state parks.”
This year, legislators in Annapolis passed the Maryland Great Outdoors Act, designed to work toward the goal of providing more access to nature.
Maryland House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke was among lawmakers who supported the bill in the House.
“It is the largest single investment in our state parks in state history,” he said, adding that the legislation will devote $150 million to building new parks, assisting with the upkeep of current parks, and adding park ranger positions.
“It’s going to take time to build the new parks we need, which will help reduce overcrowding, but we’re on the right path,” said Luedtke.
Luedtke said an analysis of the increasing demands for park access revealed a particular interest in central Maryland in the vicinity of water bodies.
“They want to picnic, they want to swim, they want to be near water, so that’s driving a lot of the overcrowding,” he said.
According to Luedtke, part of the legislation’s goal “is to expand access and make sure that our parks can live up to that mission of being a place where every Marylander can spend time and enjoy the outdoors.”
As a Democrat, Luedtke famously posts his visits to state parks via social media. And he’s not the only one. Republican Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford has worked to promote the state’s parks system and has said he aims to visit all the parks.
“My number now is 64 or 65 state parks that I’ve visited. The lieutenant governor may actually be ahead of me now,” Luedtke said. “It’s exciting to have somebody of his stature as supportive of the parks as he is.”
Settina advises visitors to be aware that when good weather is in the forecast on summer weekends, they can expect parks, especially those on the water like Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay, to fill up fast.
Park officials provide updates throughout the day on social media like Twitter.
“To avoid being turned away, head for the parks early in the day,” Settina said. “If you can visit on a weekday, give that a try.”
Settina also suggested carpooling, if possible. If you are in a large group in several different cars, make sure you enter the park simultaneously.
“There have been times when parties of park visitors would arrive with a grill, only to find that the other members of their group — those with the charcoal — had been turned away,” she said.
Luedtke and Settina were asked if they have favorite spots in the state park system. Luedtke said he’s especially fond of Patuxent River State Park. Settina said she loves all the state parks, calling them special. Each one finds a way to grab her attention.
“I’m a little bit partial to the mountains, personally, and the old-growth hemlock forests at Swallow Falls State Park,” Settina said. “It’s really hard to choose one!”
This article originally appeared on WTOP News.