State parks around New Mexico are celebrating a successful launch of their summer season with a 34 percent increase in Memorial Day week crowds.
“The holiday weekend was terrific in New Mexico State Parks,” said Dave Simon, state parks director. “It was safe and it was fun-filled.”
Visits at all 32 state parks increased from 222,000 for the week leading to Memorial Day in 2004 to 296,000 this year, Simon said.
“With lake levels continuing to rise through June and dozens of programs and special activities scheduled, the 2005 summer excitement in state parks is just getting started,” Simon said.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park saw a 14-foot increase in water levels from a year ago. It experienced an 80 percent increase in visitors from 72,800 in 2004 to 131,000 this year.
Nearby Caballo Lake State Park experienced a 100 percent increase in visitors during the week leading to Memorial Day this year with 18,015. It had only 9,021 visitors during the same period last year.
Sugarite Canyon in northeastern New Mexico also saw a huge increase from 2,477 last year to 5,005 this year.
All totals released by the parks officials are based on visitor numbers from Monday, May 23, through Sunday, May 29.
Despite the large crowds, no major accidents or injuries were reported at state parks over the holiday weekend, officials said.
Navajo Lake State Park had more than 19,000 visitors for the week.
About 6,000 visitors made their way to Eagle Nest Lake State Park for its first Memorial Day weekend as a state park. A free fishing clinic and survival strategy demonstration were credited for drawing some of the visitors, state parks officials said.
More than 5,200 visitors went to Santa Rosa Lake State Park in eastern New Mexico during the week. That’s a 26 percent increase.
Drop Elephant Butte and Caballo and you have an average of over 650 visitors per day per park. If I went to any park and encountered 600 people, I’d leave. New Mexico needs more parks. mjh