Heather Cory / File photo
Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009 | 1:55 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Hard times in Las Vegas seem to be taking their toll at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
While the number of people heading to national parks across the United States has increased 3.6 percent so far this year over last year, at Lake Mead, visitor volume is down about 5 percent, National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said.
Not even a free weekend Aug. 15 and 16 could buck that trend, with about half the visitor volume as a similar weekend last year, Munoz said. It was the third fee-free weekend held at all of the nation’s national parks. The fee at Lake Mead is $5 per vehicle and $10 per boat.
“I don’t know what else was going on this weekend, but it was a perfect time to come out,” Munoz said.
The trend at Lake Mead reflects a decline in visitor volume in the Las Vegas area, which has been hit hard by the recession. The number of visitors to Las Vegas has fallen 6.8 percent in the first six months of this year compared with last year, Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority numbers show. Hotel occupancy rates were 82 percent in June 2009 compared with 89 percent a year earlier.
“The entire Las Vegas region has been affected by the downturn,” Munoz said.
One trend he has noticed, however, is that Lake Mead seems to be drawing more Las Vegans.
“We are seeing a larger increase in visitation of locals, who are staying in town and coming out to the lake to take a break,” Munoz said.
And a fee-free weekend in July hit the intended mark. That weekend, 6,911 cars and 1,263 boats entered the park. That compared with 4,093 vehicles and 831 boats in the same weekend the previous year.
“Hopefully, they’re either discovering or rediscovering Lake Mead as a place they can enjoy and it’s right in their backyard,” he said.
Jean Reid Norman can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].