In 2016 Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site hosted 31,948 visitors, an increase of 22% over the 2015 number of 26,219. Visitation to the fort in 2016 was the highest since 1999.
“Undoubtedly the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service increased the public’s awareness of their national parks,” said Chief of Interpretation Rick Wallner. “Lack of major fires or floods in Colorado last year, along with the park’s decision to not charge a fee for touring the fort during the Centennial year, surely contributed to the increase we saw at the site.”
“Over the last few years our visitation has been on an upward trend,” said Wallner. “This is the third year in a row that our numbers have increased. Hopefully more visitors will continue to find us, and all the other great things to see and do in southeast Colorado.”
Across the entire National Park System, visitors logged a record-breaking 331 million visits during the National Park Service’s centennial year in 2016, according to official numbers announced today.
“Stunning,” Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds said of the 2016 count. “We expected more visitors in 2016 as the NPS celebrated its Centennial with special events and activities, but these numbers really show the depth of feeling people have for their national parks, especially considering that increased visitation was recorded not just at the biggest and best known parks but at smaller historical and cultural sites as well.”
Visitation growth from 2015 to 2016 was greatest in parks that see more modest annual visitation. “That shows the breadth of support for parks and, I think,” Reynolds said, “the Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque campaign launched with the National Park Foundation reached new audiences but also highlighted what we might call lesser-known parks.”
Overall the 2016 Park Service-wide numbers showed a 7.7% increase over 2015. 382 of the 417 parks in the National Park System count visitors and 77 of those parks set a new record for annual recreation visits. This is about 20% of reporting parks.
The Every Kid in a Park program also encouraged visitation by offering every fourth grader in America a free one-year national parks pass for the student and his or her family. Entering its third year with the start of the fall school term, more than 2 million signed up for the program through its online portal in its first year.
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