Officials with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced this week that attendance at the state's parks and historic sites soared last year.
In 2010, nearly 57 million visitors took advantage of the state parks system - that's about one million more visitors than in 2009.
Last spring, former Gov. David Paterson moved to close dozens of the state's 178 parks and 35 historic sites due to budgetary constraints. Following significant public outcry, lawmakers restored $11 million to keep parks open.
Still, a joint report by the Alliance for New York State Parks and Parks & Trails New York notes that funding has dropped off by more than $30 million in recent years, leaving parks understaffed and in dire need of repairs.
Eileen Larabee is a spokeswoman for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. She says that despite funding cuts, parks officials are doing their best to continue providing great tourist destinations for residents and visitors alike.
Larabee adds that Paterson's attempt to close some parks and historic sites may have played into the increased attendance numbers.
"There is something to be said regarding the amount of news last year about the parks," she said. "I think people remembered that we had this great asset in the state of New York. And the weather was good. The economy may have kept people close to home. The fact that a million more people came to our parks speaks to the importance of the parks system."
Robin Dropkin of Parks & Trails New York - an advocacy group that led the charge against Paterson's proposed cuts last year - says the increased attendance is a clear mandate from the people that maintaining parks and historic sites is critical.
"It's pretty obvious that in tough times, people are drawn to more economical forms of recreation and state parks are one of those forms," Dropkin said. "Even in good economic times, they draw 56 million people. It really is a mandate that parks are one of the best uses of taxpayer money in most people's eyes."
Advocacy officials are quick to point out that funding for the parks system is a miniscule slice of the state's budget.
In fact, according to Dropkin, appropriations for the parks agency account for one-fifth of one percent of New York's total spending.
"For that amount of money, New Yorkers get access to 213 parks and historic sites," she said. "It's an amazing bargain."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already begun drafting his first executive budget. Larabee says it's too soon to say how he'll handle parks funding.
"We're moving ahead," she said. "For all state agencies, these are difficult economic times. But we are moving ahead."
Dropkin is more optimistic, pointing to Cuomo's "Cleaner, Greener NY" plan, in which the governor pledges to do his best to keep parks and historic sites open.
But in some parts of the state, parks are already closing.
In western New York, the state is pulling its funding of Knox Farm and Woodlawn Beach. In those instances, Dropkin says friends groups and local municipalities are scrambling to find ways of keeping those destinations open to the public.
"The park agency is stretched so thin right now," she said. "Between layoffs, early retirements, and targeted staff reductions, they already cannot keep all of the facilities going. It's already at a crisis point."
Dropkin hopes parks advocates can get in Cuomo's ear in the coming weeks and drive home the economic benefits of the parks system.
A study released last year by Parks & Trails New York found that for every dollar invested by the state, the economy gets back five dollars. Dropkin says parks generate a $1 billion economic impact for the state.