Parks over Labor Day weekend: crowds and flowers

“We expect this Labor Day weekend to be very similar to what we normally experience,” said Dave Collett, Western Region operations manager for Virginia State Parks. “We are almost 100% busy with overnight stays, camping and huts.”

The numbers are a little lower than the 2020 pandemic highs, Collett said, but they’re still high.

Parks are also not immune to the staff shortages seen across industries during the pandemic. Collett said the parks had to adapt to this by reducing schedules and offers, especially lifeguards in swimming areas. Lifeguards shortages have also been identified in other areas of Virginia.

Park visitors may encounter migratory birds at this time of year, and east coast park visitors are likely to see hawks. There is a hawk observation tower in Kiptopeke State Park.

“There’s also a tremendous amount of late wildflowers,” said Collett, which is part of an effort to increase pollinators in the state. He counted goldenrod, purple ironweed and fleabane among the wildflowers in the open areas of state parks.

These gold, white, and purple tones coincide with a high point over the holidays. Then there is a lull until the fall colors bring crowds.

“September is a little slack,” said Collett. “Then we will reach another high point when the autumn color comes back into the scene in October.”

Virginia opened two state parks this year, Clinch River State Park in southwest Virginia and Machicomoco State Park on the Middle Peninsula.

Collett recommends visiting parks early and possibly visiting on weekdays to avoid the crowds.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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