To date this year more than 17 million guests stopped by outdoor state facilities
(Oct. 16, 2020) Maryland state parks have received over 17 million visits so far this year, according to the governor’s office, and Assateague State Park is no exception to the increase in visitors.
Although most state parks will receive a much higher number of visitors this year, Angela Baldwin, park manager at Assateague, said that the park’s numbers will be a little skewed since it was closed from March until mid-May.
“For June, July, August and into September, our visitorship is up over 36,000 visitors during that time period from 2019,” Baldwin said.
There have been 6,000 more campers than last year in that same time period, according to Baldwin.
She said once the park opened in May, visitorship grew in June, exploded in July and August and has stayed high past Labor Day when it typically decreases as the school year begins.
Baldwin said it’s been good to have visitors who might not have been to the state or national park before.
“We want them [parks] to be available and to be a great place to visit for everybody,” Baldwin said. “Probably the downside is that it increases impact on the resource, so it’s more people crammed into the state space . . . the crowded conditions can sometimes take away from the natural experience.”
She said many area residents have come to the park in the early morning or evening to avoid miles of traffic at peak visit times.
Baldwin added that higher crowds typically means an increase in trash and advised visitors to act responsibly and to do their research on the park rules before visiting.
“It’s a good idea to do a little bit of homework about what are the rules and what is safe as far as staying a safe distance from the horses, at least 40 feet, not feeding or petting or . . . and making sure that you’re driving at a safe speed,” Baldwin said.
She said driving safely is especially important as it gets darker earlier.
As for covid-19 impacts, Baldwin said that safety and budget issues have caused shorter office hours, as well as canceling interpretive programs and guided hikes and other trips. The nature center has also been closed.
“Our staff are required to wear masks in all of our facilities or when they cannot socially distance outdoors with visitors or other staff members,” Baldwin said. “We have masks required for any of the public facilities that are open to visitors, which really just now are the restrooms.”
The park also has enhanced cleaning protocols for facilities.
To learn more about the state park, go to dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/pages/eastern/assateague.aspx.