Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Wright Brothers National Memorial break January visitation records

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 7:48 PM EST
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OUTER BANKS, N.C. (WITN) - It’s been a record breaking start of the year for two landmarks in Eastern North Carolina.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore) and Wright Brothers National Memorial had the highest visitation levels in January 2021 than any other January on record.

At the Seashore, visitors broke January visitation records for the last three years. In January 2021, the Seashore hosted 86,991 visits, an increase of 5,000 visits over January 2020 and 14,000 more visits than January 2019. Before 2019, the highest level of January visitation occurred in 2006.

Over the past five years, the Seashore has hosted 12.6 million visits, an increase of 1.7 million visits over the previous five-year period (2011-2015).

Park officials say staff members have stepped up to accommodate the millions of visitors.

“It was a challenge for the Seashore’s team to handle such a significant increase in visitation, and I’m proud of our staff’s work to rise to the occasion,” said David Hallac, Superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina. “I also want to thank all the Seashore’s volunteers, partners, and local communities. Since the Seashore’s establishment, our communities serve as our partners in managing the parks - they help provide important safety information and park information, report concerns, and contribute to a high level of visitor satisfaction. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, and we appreciate the teamwork.”

Wright Brothers National Memorial hosted 10,949 visits in January 2021, making it the busiest January since recordkeeping began in 1979.

Even with lower visitation, Hallac says 2020 was a busy year for historic sites, with the Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Wright Brothers National Memorial hosting over 3 million combined visits.

Despite almost two months of pandemic-related restricted access to Dare and Hyde counties, the Seashore still experienced 2,645,477 visits, the highest number in 17 years and a 1.49% increase over 2019.

In eight out of 12 months last year, visitation was higher than the previous year. An increase in regional travel to the Outer Banks and a mostly calm hurricane season likely contributed to the very busy summer, fall, and winter visitation.

The Wright Brothers National Memorial hosted 277,963 visits last year, down 30.5% from 2019. Like at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the visitor center was closed due to COVID-19 safety precautions from March 17 to September 5, 2020, which potentially contributed to an overall decrease in visitation.

Park visitation increased by an average of 31% over the last four months of 2020 versus the previous four months of 2019.

According the the park service, visitors to the national park units should be aware of requirements to protect the health of those who live, work, and visit national parks and National Park Service (NPS) facilities. In support of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, NPS implemented a mask requirement for employees, visitors, partners, and contractors.

Face masks are now required in all park buildings and facilities, including visitor centers and museums. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including beaches and trails.

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