More people visiting state parks over past year

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Ryan Lee and his family are on day six of their 10 day camping adventure at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in Mandan.

“The kids have a great time, they love getting out here and seeing nature, going on the trails, exploring, seeing all the wildlife and get to spend time with family and that’s what it’s all about,” Lee said.

It’s one of 13 state parks that saw a huge uptick in visitors this past year, as campers like Lee decided to get outdoors more often.

“We’ve been camping for a couple years now, but more and more every year now. We start sooner, we end later and we try to go longer each time,” Lee said.

He’s not alone. North Dakota’s Parks and Recreation Department recorded a 35 percent increase in campsites compared to 2019. It’s a statistic that bodes well for tourism, according to the state’s Commerce Department’s Tourism and Marketing Division Director Sara Otte Coleman.

“People are really interested in going outdoors and with the pandemic, that’s what we were selling last year was safe alternatives,” Coleman said.

For the first time, Coleman says the tourism website added a live chat feature, to address the uptick in questions about how to book a campsite.

She says the state’s parks are an asset for attracting visitors, and with more people camping, there could be some campsite expansions in the works.

“The North Dakota parks have also been looking at increasing the amenities that they offer with some of the enhanced lodging, whether it’s yurts or cabins because some people just don’t have campers or maybe want to try it before they buy it,” Coleman said.

But even before any upgrades, Lee says his family is enjoying getting outside.

“We really like the history of the park, so getting to see all the historical monuments and the recreations and the tourism, the different areas we saw, and some of the hiking we’ve done, too has been really nice,” Lee said.

Lee says they’ll head to Turtle River State Park next weekend, and find new parks to explore after that.

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