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State parks see surge in business as weather heats up

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Expect state parks to be a little busier this summer.

Sales of annual passes shot up in May after a slow start to the year because of a harsh winter.

Revenue from year-long passes was up about 8 percent this year through the end of May compared to the same time last year, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. That amounted to about $1.74 million for the state agency despite fees staying at $40.

The boost has DNR officials expecting more people to visit parks this summer. However, annual passes are only one piece of a more complex system for forecasting attendance, Sorrells added.

“Annual permits are a part of the formula we use to estimate our annual attendance,” Christie Sorrells, business services program director for the DNR’s parks and reservoirs division, said in an e-mail. “So, theoretically, if the annual entrance permit revenue is up, then we would expect the number of visits to be up.”

One-day admissions are also up by 20 percent over last year, as they reeled in about $1.06 million between January and May.

The spike happened much more suddenly this year after unusually cold weather lasted well into spring.

“Within the last 4 to 6 weeks, we have more than made up for [a slow start], thanks in large part to some fantastic weekends of weather,” Sorrells said.

Despite increasing from 2013, revenue from daily passes is down from the first five months of 2012, when uncommonly warm weather drove sales up to $1.1 million. Annual passes, which in 2012 cost $4 less than they do now, brought in $1.59 million.

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