Be our guest

Drew Davis, a park ranger at the Andy Guest State Park, looks over the view of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River at the Everett Cullers Overlook inside the park. The park saw an increase of 16 percent more visitors in 2014 over the previous year. Rich Cooley/Daily

Shenandoah River Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. State Park continues to see more visitors with each passing year.

Park manager Tony Widmer said “almost 289,000” people visited the Bentonville park in 2014 – a 16 percent boost from 2013’s total visitation of around 240,000.

Visitation to state-run parks throughout the Commonwealth has been on an upward trend for the past six years, with 9 million people visiting all of the state parks last year, which is an increase of 1.4 percent over 2013.

Widmer said the park’s visitation numbers have been increasing steadily since 1999, when 34,000 people visited.

Most of the visitors, he said, come from the Washington, D.C., metro area as well as Maryland.

Drew Davis, a park ranger at the Andy Guest State Park, walks outside one of the park's rental cabins. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We get visitors from all over, but a large percentage of our visitation comes from that corridor,” Widmer said. “I would say 90 percent of it has to do with just being close to the 81, 66 corridor.”

State parks, Widmer said, are “a good deal for the visitors of Virginia … they don’t have to travel far and the fees are not usually steep.”

Standard admission for one vehicle into the park is no higher than $7 for a holiday weekend fee, which applies to in-state visitors. Camping fees range from $20 to $65. Lodging in cabins runs higher, with some three-bedroom cabins costing about $150 a night for Virginia residents.

Widmer attributed the recent spike in visitors to the new camping cabins and RV areas the park opened in 2010 that are “slowly being discovered.”

“It’s getting popular and people are having trouble making reservations. You can make a reservation one year out,” Widmer added.

On top of that, Widmer said that a new 1,000-plus-foot zipline, which is run by Virginia Canopy Tours and opened last year, has helped the park’s numbers.

Widmer explained that the park “gives people the chance to get outside, hike trails, camp and do family things together.”

Along with the increased numbers has come consistently busy weekends for the park.

“Our day area is filled to capacity almost every weekend,” Widmer said, noting that on a typical weekend the park will see 3,000 to 4,000 people.

Widmer and the park staff are simply looking to maintain a reputation of quality in 2015. He said that a lot of guests comment that the park is “one of the cleanest and most maintained of any place they have ever been.”

“When we clean cabins to turn it over for the next guest, we try to make sure they are clean … like you would want your own house to be,” Widmer said.

Looking ahead, Widmer said that he expects to see even more visitors this year. “Obviously it will depend on weather and other issues, but I expect it to trend upwards.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com