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Natural Interest

Chapman State Park sees spike in 2020 use

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Chapman State Park — on a frosty day — saw a significant boost in usage during 2020. Park Manager Tyson Martin said just three campsites remain available for Memorial Day 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed people outside in 2020.

Without the ability to travel, people had to explore local options and offerings.

Chapman State Park was one of the beneficiaries.

And early reservation data is indicating that what could appear as a blip might turn into a trend.

Park Manager Tyson Martin said the park saw an approximately 30 percent increase in users in 2020 as compared to 2019.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Jean Gomory from the Warren County Conservation District is pictured in January 2020 setting up the annual Trivia Quest for Winterfest at Chapman State Park. Participants hiked the Penny Run Trail where they encountered striped tubes with trivia questions and answers along the way.

He called that an “even more impressive number considering the restrictions on group sizes led to many event cancellations from March through December.”

But that statistic doesn’t begin to tell the whole story of how use of the park expanded in 2020.

“Summer months are traditionally the most popular at Chapman and July 2020 saw (a) 92 percent increase in attendance over the previous year,” he said.

But it was the campground that saw the greatest explosion in use.

“In 2020,” Marin said, “with five plus fewer weeks of available camping days, Chapman saw a 188 percent increase in overnight use over 2019.”

The year 2019 also saw a 128 percent increase over 2019.

“With only five days into 2021, we are already at 15 percent of the reservation numbers in 2020,” he said. “To put it into perspective, we only have three electric sites left available for Memorial day weekend in 2021.”

Data like that gives Martin reason to believe that 2020 wasn’t just a blip on the radar.

“Global pandemic or not, weather still plays a significant role in how often and how long folks use the park. 2020 was a tremendously good year for summer recreating weather overall,” he said. “Assuming we are blessed with similar weather, I believe that 2021 will be as busy or busier than 2020.”

Growth at Chapman wasn’t unique in the state park system either.

“Public demand for the Bureau’s essential services continues at record levels,” David Sariano, director of marketing and business functions for the Bureau of State Parks said.

He said state-wide data showed October and November usage to be the highest ever recorded in those months.

“Industry trends were already showing increased demands before many people were thrust into finding new vacations and outdoor hobbies,” Martin said.

His advice? If you want a campsite at Chapman this summer, reserve early at 888-PA-Parks or visitpaparks.com.

Martin said infrastructure upgrades to the upper loop are currently in the works but not planned to be implemented until after Labor Day.

“Chapman seems to be undergoing a project all the time. Certainly when one isn’t being executed, one or more are being planned,” he said. “However, we are still in the beginning engineering stages, so much can change.

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