PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Padre Island National Seashore saw an increase in visitors in 2020, compared to both 2018 and 2019.
The park had 617,704 visitors in 2020, compared to 576,299 in 2019, and 616,033 in 2018.
Dustin Baker, lead ranger for Interpretation and Education Division at PINS, attributes the increase in visitors to the ability for people to get outside and socially distance in a time where most places couldn’t offer that.
“A lot of what became important during the coronavirus changed," Baker said. "And that access to big, open spaces, where you can come and recreate safely, became really important for people to have quality time with their family and get outdoors."
Baker said more than 237 million people visited National Parks in 2020, and the pandemic created a unique challenge for parks across the country.
“One challenge in 2020 was having the park open to the public, but also having it safe, in terms of managing social distancing, mask-wearing, and things of that nature," Baker said. "So, we did have to make some adjustments to our operations to make sure that people could do those things here while they were enjoying the park."
Despite the foggy weather, plenty of people were enjoying the park Tuesday, like Gabe Olscamp, a visitor from Idaho who was experiencing the park for the first time.
“I’ve heard it’s famous, it’s fun to go, there’s a lot of shells I want to pick up and look at," she said. "I wanted to see the Portuguese Man O’ War."
TJ Henry and Eve Lopez, from Fort Worth, are visiting the area for a few days. Tuesday was their second day in a row at the park. They like the ability to spread out and enjoy the beach.
“There’s 60 miles of beach to camp on, so you can have your own space, and not a lot of people are around you,” Henry said.
Laury and Dan Krause are from Wisconsin and have family in Corpus Christi. They were visiting PINS for the first time in awhile. They said they like to visit to walk along the beach, and if it’s warm enough, go for a swim.
The Krauses were not the only visitors from Wisconsin on Tuesday. Young brothers Dayton and Xaiden were visiting the park with their family.
“I like the beach because I like to look at seashells,” said Dayton. “We were looking at the water, and we were looking at jellyfish,” Xaiden added.
Baker grew up in Georgia, and loved going to the beach when he was younger, so he loves being able to share PINS with visitors.
“Every year when I was a kid, my parents would take me to the beach, so to be able to provide this space for people to come with their families, even during difficult years," Baker said. "I think is a very important service for the people here in the Coastal Bend."
Baker said he hopes just as many, if not more, people visit PINS in 2021.