During a year when people were many businesses and common social destinations saw a stark decrease in visitors because of COVID-19, people instead flocked to some of the parks in Greenwood County.
Compared to 2019, Lake Greenwood State Park saw an increase of more than 44,000 visitors in 2020, all while being closed for more than a month in the spring. Last year also saw an increase in revenue over 2019; a growth of more than $150,000.
“Lake Greenwood State Park outperformed in terms of campground occupancy, revenue generation and visitation in 2020 compared to 2019,” said Sam Queen, director of corporate communications for the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
This growth came amid mask requirements, restricted access to picnic and shelter rental spaces and a temporarily closed visitors center. Even now, only two families are allowed into the visitors center at a time.
“It’s been a challenging time navigating the closures, influx of visitors and COVID-19 precautions,” Queen said. We are grateful for the professionalism, stewardship and commitment of our State Parks team to keep parks open and ensure positive visitor experiences.
At the Ninety Six National Historic Site, rangers also predicted an increased flow of visitors. Though she didn’t have visitation numbers, acting Superintendent of the region’s American Revolution Parks Group Diana Bramble said rangers at the park noted a strong flow of visitors enjoying outdoor activities.
“Obviously with our visitors center closed at first, and then reopened with reduced staffing and outside services only ... direct contact visitation numbers are obviously down,” said Diana Bramble, acting superintendent for the region’s American Revolution Parks Group. “But the parking lots are busy, on the weekends the parking lots are full.”
She said parks staff worked to follow CDC and local guidelines as they changed throughout the year. Staff alternated days worked, to reduce the potential for exposure to COVID-19, and put up signage to keep guests aware of the need to enjoy the outdoors safely. Even parks maintenance projects went ahead according to schedule, Bramble said.
The park is still open every day, though rangers are only outside Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Bramble said the park’s Facebook page, at facebook.com/ninetysixnps, is where rangers are putting up park updates, videos and other educational content when they’re not working on site.
“We want to just continue to adapt to the changing conditions, and keep outdoor recreation as accessible to the public as possible,” Bramble said.