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More People Are Visiting Westchester's State Parks

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – Former Irvington resident Alison Strachan says she visits the Old Croton Aqueduct park as often as she can.

I "grew up on the OCA," she wrote on The Tarrytown Daily Voice's Facebook page .

Strachan is not alone. The Old Croton Aqueduct Historic State Park has seen a more than 20 percent increase in visitors so far in 2012. The park has had 708,402 visitors this year, nearly 145,000 more than the same time period last year. The Aqueduct park was created in 1968 and spans the Western edge of Westchester County from Yonkers to the Croton Dam.

The Rockefeller State Park and Preserve in Pocantico Hills also saw attendance jump more than 20 percent. It recorded 236,732 visitors this year, nearly 49,000 more visitors than the same time last year.

The two parks are following a trend. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has announced that overall attendance within the system has increased by 2.3 million since last year — a 5.6 percent increase. New York State has seen nearly 43.7 million visitors at its 178 state parks and 35 historic sites this year.

"It is gratifying that so many people continue to enjoy and appreciate the New York state park system year after year," State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. "New Yorkers are fortunate to have such high-quality and inviting state parks and historic sites across the state."

The statewide increase can be attributed to great weather and well-attended events such as Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across Niagara Falls in June, Harvey says.

Lesley Walter, a Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct board member, believes the historic park is popular because it is dog-friendly.

"For that reason alone the OCA Trail is very well-used," she said.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve has become so popular that it doesn't have a down season anymore, park Manager Alix Schnee said. Fall is the park's busiest time, Schnee said.

"It used to be that the summers were very slow, that's no longer the case," she said. "We also had tremendous attendance during the peony season this year; we were literally jammed in the courtyard; and people came all day long."

Although summer is winding down, Harvey said the park system is expecting even more visitors.

"We've had a tremendous season so far, and we hope that our visitors enjoyed their time swimming, camping, golfing, hiking and sightseeing at our parks and historic sites," Harvey said. "But the year is far from over, and fall is one of the best times to get outside in New York."

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