Watch CBS News

Pandemic-Trapped New Yorkers Heading In Record Numbers To State Parks

JONES BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Sand and sea, plants and trees, hiking and biking are all luring pandemic-trapped New Yorkers out of their homes, and as they head out, they're heading in record numbers to state parks.

"Have your own personal bubble out here," Valerie Rafael said.

Valerie and Jermyn Rafael, of Merrick, regularly bring baby Camille to the Jones Beach boardwalk.

"It's just such a wide open space," Jermyn Rafael said.

Exploring our own backyards has become the great escape, the pandemic-ending travel.

Naresh Bridglall tries a new park every week.

"I get to explore the island, and I went to places that I've never been before," he said.

"Locally?" CBS2's Jennifer McLogan asked.

"Yes, locally," Bridglall said.


Tennis courts are thriving, and walking paths are bringing a sense of calm and tranquility.

'Looking forward to getting out in nature, do some walking with my friends," park patron Keith Pulsifer said.

Just in time for spring, the state completed 10 more miles of the Ocean Parkway Greenway path extension with magnificent views.

"It is truly exciting because you can keep going. It goes all the way down to Captree State Park, so I'm headed there now," bicycle enthusiast Alicia Venezia said.

Long Island biking advocate Martin Buchman, with the New York Bike Coalition, says ditch the cars.

"As an activist, I'm thrilled that this is completed. It's completed early. It's been years in the making, but it's the beginning," he said.

National parks saw an explosion in attendance in 2020. New York State parks drew a record 78 million visitors even though parking lots were limited to half capacity.

"Overall at Long Island state parks, we saw just over 20% increase in attendance, and that translates into over a million additional visitors in 2020," said New York State Parks spokesman George Gorman.

He says that's without the canceled charity walks and runs, airshows and fireworks.

Paul Li, of Long Beach, says he managed to run a marathon in stages.

"When I was 70 years old," he said.

"It's just great to be here. Hopefully, there's light at the end of tunnel," park patron Joseph Calhoun said.

With hopes hardship may be nearing an end.

Jones Beach State Park hopes to be able to resume the Bethpage Air Show this year on Memorial Day weekend.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.