WMBF Investigates: Local state park attendance rising

WMBF Investigates: Local state park attendance rising

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The $75 South Carolina State Park Passport is a cheaper option than the $100 decal Myrtle Beach is offering non-city residents. It's one reason park attendance is on the rise, but it's not the only reason.

A WMBF News investigation found more visitors are coming to both Huntington Beach and Myrtle Beach State Parks than previous years, but it's a trend that goes back well before the pay to park debate in Myrtle Beach started.

"Huntington I think is different than pretty much any place in the world," said park manager Brenda Magers.

She isn't interested in getting involved in the back and forth between the county and the city. Magers does believe Huntington Beach State Park has a lot to offer at an affordable price.

"Five dollars to get in, what else can you do for five dollars that you can spend all day doing," she said. "It would be even less than that if you start looking at passports that you frequently use."

Magers said the park has noticed it's locals who most use that annual pass, and they're not just a summer-time purchase. They sell throughout the year, especially at the start of each month.

According to attendance figures from the state, attendance has grown each year at Huntington Beach since 2014, from 455,257 to 718,011 in the 2016 fiscal year.

Myrtle Beach State Park attendance has grown as well, up 271,584 people since 2013.

In fact, the jump in visitors Huntington Beach saw from 2015 to 2016, was the biggest increase of all South Carolina's state parks.

While they may not be coming to avoid parking prices in Myrtle Beach, Magers knows what people are coming for.

"Three miles of undeveloped beach," she said. "That alone is very rare. You can go on the beach and not see buildings. That's unusual on the entire grand strand. We also have maritime forests, we have hiking trails, so we have this diversity of resources that is unusual."

WEB EXTRA -  Check out detailed reports on state park attendance and revenue over the last two years below:

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