Missouri State Parks reported 22.5 million visitors last year, a nearly 7% increase from the year before and an all-time attendance record for the network of 92 parks and historic sites, recently released data show.
According to a report, visitors flocked to Missouri State Parks in record numbers in 2021, continuing a pandemic-fueled return-to-the-outdoors trend that officials don’t expect to end anytime soon.
“The biggest complaint we get now is ‘we can’t get into a state park,'” said David Kelly, director of the Division of State Parks.
Another win for park administrators is a 24% increase in campsite rentals and a 17% jump in lodging units rented.
Since Missouri State Parks have no entrance fee, visitors represent only estimations. Overnight stays are considered a reliable measure of the popularity of the park system, and both campsite and lodging rentals hit record-setting levels in 2021.
“The fact that camping was up 24% this year was astounding,” Kelly said.
“We’re doing things to try to meet customer demands as quickly as we can,” he said.
There are plans to open new parks, create new cabins, install charging stations for electric vehicles, improve internet connectivity within the state parks, and improve existing campgrounds, park offices, and drinking water infrastructures.
A large portion of the improvements will be supported by the federal government, which is pouring cash into states through the American Rescue Plan Act, approved by Congress with just Democratic backing and signed by President Joe Biden in March.
Kelly stated that the first four projects include adding a campground loop at Montauk State Park in Dent County, renovation of the campground loop at Roaring River State Park located in Barry County, replacement of a 30 years-old lighting system in Onondaga Cave, and building full-service cabins in Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in Reynolds County.
Park officials are also planning to open Bryant Creek State Park, in south-central Missouri’s Douglas County, sometime this summer, Kelly said. The parkland was acquired by the former governor Jay Nixon.