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It was another outstanding year at Starved Rock State Park — but the park fell just short of setting a second consecutive attendance record.
The park office reported 2,162,454 visitors in 2012, a total buoyed by record months set in March and June. That’s the second highest yearly attendance figure in the park’s history, and only the sixth time the park has welcomed more than 2 million.
But it’s a bit short of the all-time high set in 2011, when the park recorded 2,181,083 visitors. The 2012 total fell short of that record by less than 1 percent.
Terry Cross, Starved Rock Lodge president and chief executive officer, said he was pleased but not surprised that park attendance remains at near-record levels.
“We’ve invested well over a half million dollars in our aggressive sales and marketing efforts to reach beyond the leisure traveler,” Cross said. “The lodge now offers year ’round guided hikes every weekend and we have greatly expanded our calendar of events to offer activities for all ages. There is something here to help everyone enjoy the lodge and park in their own way.”
It looked for a while as if Starved Rock would smash last year’s attendance record, as the park drew 1 million visitors by June 30 for the first time in its history.
Attendance was boosted early in the year by a mild winter followed by record and near-record monthly crowds that poured in after March 1 — and all this while workers completed the Route 178 realignment in Utica to the north.
Unfortunately, a lingering drought appears to have suppressed attendance from July 1 on. October attendance fell off most: Starved Rock recorded just 216,000 visitors in October after attracting 300,000-plus in the previous two Octobers.
Attendance generally has surged at Starved Rock in recent years, a trend attributed in part to a tough economy that has Illinois families vacationing closer to home. Eleven monthly records have fallen over the past eight years and the park came close this year to topping a 30-year-old record for May.
Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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