In 2021, the Maryland Park Service transitioned largely back to normal after a turbulent 2020 and the impacts of COVID-19. Millions of people who newly discovered their state parks during the pandemic became repeat visitors in 2021, connecting with family and friends in nature.
While park visitation reached a record breaking 21.5 million in 2020, the 2021 numbers were not far behind. Parks welcomed 20.6 million visitors in 2021. In concert with high visitation, park-generated revenues topped $23.4 million this past year, which was an 8% increase over the previous year, and an all-time record for the Maryland Park Service!
The dramatic increase in visitation over the past two years provided valuable opportunities to reach an entirely new audience with interpretive programs and events related to outdoor recreation. State parks launched a renewed “Leave No Trace” campaign to provide an easily-understood message about how to recreate outdoors and minimize impacts on natural areas. Large banners, in both English and Spanish, were displayed at popular parks throughout the state, supported by a robust social media and email campaign and special appearances by Smokey Bear.
Park improvements and environmental projects were a top priority in 2021. Work was completed in fall 2021 at Bohemia River and Cypress Branch, in preparation for the two new state parks to open in early 2022. Design work for the new Fort Frederick and Sandy Point State Parks’ visitor centers were completed after extensive planning and design considerations. We continued to put an emphasis on the preservation of our historical areas, including two important pieces of African-American history by investing in the Howard House Project at Patuxent River State Park and the Williams Schoolhouse at Fort Frederick State Park. Extensive landscape restoration projects aimed at eliminating invasives and establishing native species occurred at parks including Susquehanna, Calvert Cliffs, and Tuckahoe.
Maryland’s state parks continue to be a touchstone for millions of visitors seeking fun and relaxation, outdoor adventures and connections to nature, history and cultural traditions. The Maryland Park Service looks forward to continuing to expand and strengthen its efforts in 2022 to provide a valuable escape in nature for our millions of visitors.