As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohioans have discovered a new appreciation for the great outdoors.
Despite the perception of a growing phone addiction, parks and recreation areas in Ohio have seen a significant increase in patrons over the years.
As per a report from Springfield News-Sun, Ohio parks have seen increasing numbers of visitors during the first two pandemic years. While some areas saw slight dips from 2021 to 2022, preliminary data from area and state park districts indicates more Ohioans have stuck with the great outdoors compared to 2019.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) uses various metrics to measure park use, including overnight stays at camping facilities, watercraft registrations, and program participation numbers.
The data shows a steady rise in park use, in 2022, more than 882,000 people reserved overnight stays at ODNR camping facilities, slightly down from 913,000 people in 2021, which was the highest number in the last five years. But in 2020, that figure was 739,000, and it was 732,000 in 2019.
July was ODNR’s busiest month, with visitors booking 10,000 more campsites in 2020 and 18,000 more campsites in 2021. Overall, Ohio state parks saw a 20% increase in camping trips from 2019 to 2021, during the peak season of May to October.
Program participation numbers in Greene County are on the rise, with popular events and activities often selling out and resulting in large waitlists.
For instance, the recent Extreme Egg Hunt sold out 758 spots in under 12 hours and had 350 people on the waiting list.
The county has also made upgrades to its parks, including opening a new dog park and a $3.2 million upgrade to Caesar Ford Park that includes a pull-through campsite with access to electricity, a shower house, a shelter house, and the bike trail.
This is the first time Greene County will have a Class A campsite or a campground with modern amenities.
According to Robin Gregory, Greene County Parks special events and programs manager, many people found a “new appreciation” for parks during the pandemic, as it was one of the few places they could go for recreation, exercise, and mental well-being without having to pay an admission fee.
Three years later, park visits have become a regular part of people’s lives, and the increase in park use has continued, leading to more park upgrades and improvements.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in park use and a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors in Ohio. With more Ohioans embracing park life, it’s evident that the trend will continue, leading to more upgrades and improvements in park facilities.