Parks on Lake Lanier are a popular destination even when it’s not Memorial Day weekend.
While this weekend is a high-water mark, between 7 million and 7.5 million visitors descend on the lake parks and campgrounds each year, according to Nicholas S. Baggett, natural resource manager of the lake for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Baggett said that number includes parks leased by the corps to cities and counties. At the 33 day-use parks and seven campgrounds managed by the corps, 2 million people visited last year.
Regular rains the past two to three summers have made an impact.
“When it rains, the visitation drops off significantly,” Baggett said.
The wet weather has also led to Lake Lanier regularly staying near full pool of 1,071 feet and providing a better atmosphere for patrons wanting to swim at the lake’s beaches.
The corps estimates its number of visitors based on an average of four people per car at its campgrounds and three per car at its day-use parks.
Gainesville’s city-managed parks — Clarks Bridge, Holly, Longwood and Lanier Point — track only a portion of their visitor numbers, said Julie Butler Colombini, marketing/communications manager for Gainesville Parks and Recreation.
Clarks Bridge Park attracts both casual and competitive visitors as it houses the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, which welcomes numerous rowing and paddling events throughout the year. One of those competitions, the American Collegiate Rowing Association national championships, is this weekend.
Venue manager Morgan House estimated that about 15,000 visitors come to Clarks Bridge Park for such races during a given year, with a few hundred people coming to the park each non-race weekend.
Lanier Point, which also has sports fields, estimated it has welcomed approximately 85,000 visitors from league play, tournaments and facility rentals in the past year.
The only mechanism for measuring people who come to Longwood Park is rental of its two pavilions. Those numbers, which don’t include general park visitation, were 6,275 in the last year.
With a busy weekend unfolding, Baggett said visitors to the lake parks should remember safety, watch their children, wear life jackets and pay attention to others on the lake.
He encourages people to arrive early, as most parks will be at full capacity by 10 a.m. on a holiday weekend.