Farmville, VA - Virginia State Parks saw more visitors in 2012 than ever before, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
New numbers show a 7 % increase in visitors from 2011.
Park officials at High Bridge State Park say they weren't surprised with those numbers. They say there are several reasons more people are visiting trails and parks: it's inexpensive, it's good for your health, and it's convenient.
Eric Hougland has worked for Virginia state parks for 18 years. He's been at High Bridge for about 10.
"We've been blessed by local community support and also good weather," said Hougland.
Weather was definitely a factor in bringing out more people in 2012. Hougland says new programs and facilities also attracted people.
"For us here at High Bridge Trail, we opened our main attraction last year so our attendance increased by 100,000 visitors," he said.
That main attraction is the high bridge itself. It's almost half a mile long and 125 feet high. The original bridge was the sight of two Civil War battles in 1865.
"We like this trail because the high bridge has the historical interest as well and it's close to Farmville, again with historical history," said Larry Cary, who was visiting the park.
That history helped to more than double visits to High Bridge in 2012.
Hougland says beyond the attractions, there's great value in visiting the state parks.
"Not only affordable wise but for people's mental and physical health, and family health for that matter."
"It's a cheap way to get out enjoy the outdoorsnot having to spend too much money, and be out and enjoy yourself," said a couple who was visiting.
"Just enjoying nature, I think that is just important for any human being to appreciate what we have. And I'm just happy that Virginia has these opportunities," said Dawn Groins, who was visiting from Richmond.
Learn more about High Bridge State Park and its programs on the park's website.