Alaskans know that we’re blessed by our surroundings.
That includes here in Ketchikan, where none of us reside more than a mile from either unfenced wilderness or ocean waters — or both.
The events of the past year have encouraged many of us to make more use of Alaska’s wide-open spaces. Some of us have headed into the backcountry. A lot of us have made use of Alaska’s many state parks.
In fact, according to the Alaska Department of Natural resources, “COVID campers” boosted state park visits to record numbers during 2020.
That’s according to a Tuesday announcement from DNR’s Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
“Alaska State Parks have always offered residents and visitors a safe, economical way to enjoy our state’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities,” Division Director Ricky Gease said in the prepared statement. “During the pandemic, people have rediscovered the benefits of getting outside into the fresh air, and we’ve received new data documenting that in a big way.”
Data provided by reservations service Aspira indicated that booked occupancy at all of the division’s campgrounds combined increased from 15,155 nights in 2019 to more than 17,235 in 2020.
Meanwhile, total revenue from state campgrounds increased by 33%, from about $830,000 to $1.23 million, according to the Division, which was careful to note that additional usage requires more expenditures because of additional maintenence and administrative costs. Still, some state campgrounds saw their year-to-year revenue double.
The announcement didn’t note occupancy or revenue at the Alaska State Park operated facility at Settlers Cove State Recreation Site, but as regular visitors to that area, it’s great to see the use that the campground and public-cabin there receive.
We also appreciate the two recreation sties — Refuge Cove and Totem Bight — that the division manages on Revillagigedo Island, in addition to the Black Sands State Marine Park on the south end of Gravina Island and the nearby Blank Islands.
We also are pleasantly surprised to learn of the state marine park status at Betton Island, Grant Island and Grindall Island. Nice!
We appreciate Gease’s sentiment when he says that the state is “proud to see that the numbers indicate state parks necessity as an increasingly popular destination for Alaskans and others, and we will continue to work hard to make best use of our revenue and resources to provide the highest quality experience for an increasing number of visitors.”
It’s great to have quality facilities and areas that are well-maintained for those who choose to make use of them.
And we encourage our friends and neighbors to get out and enjoy that with which we’ve been so magnificently blessed, pandemic or no. It’s literally right at our fingertips, if we but stretch out our hands.