Pohick Bay Regional Park, Lake Fairfax, Burke Lake and the George Washington Memorial Parkway all had one thing in common last month -- they were swamped with record numbers of visitors.
Sunny weekend weather may have enticed thousands of area residents outdoors in June, but the rising cost of gasoline apparently induced many of them to stay close to home, according to reports from local, regional and federal parks here.
So far this summer, the only attractions that have not drawn larger than normal crowds are indoor recreation centers, ice rinks and museums.
As of this June, about 2.8 million persons, or 750,000 more than last year, visited Fort Hunt, Turkey Run and other recreation areas and marinas along the George Washington Parkway between Mount Vernon and McLean.
The crowds have forced the National Park Service to turn back visitors at many area parks by noon on weekends.
Pohick Bay Regional Park on Mason Neck was the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's most popular park. It had 65,000 visitors in June, 25 percent more than any previous June. The park offers campgrounds, boat ramps and the largest swimming pool in the East.
Lake Fairfax, a county park near Reston, had more than 90,000 visitors last month as compared with 51,500 a year ago, to enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, picnicking and camping.
The number of visitors at the 15 largest of Fairfax County's 265 parks -- all managed parks which charge admission or count visitors -- is about 30 percent higher than last year, according to Jean Van Devanter, park public information officer.
Good attendance helps county and regional parks, which depend for support on fees for swimming, golf, camping and other recreation uses.
About 50 percent of the county's $8 million operating budget is paid from park revenues, as is about 60 percent of the regional park authority's $2.6 million operating budget.
While outdoor facilities in Fairfax were busting with activity, the Mount Vernon Ice Rink had only 2,043 skaters in June, compared with 3,195 last June. Even the area's most popular recreation center, Wakefield, recorded only 23,097 visitors this June, virtually the same number it had June 1979.
An antique auto show, held outdoors at Sully Plantation near Dulles International Airport, drew 6,000 visitors this June, compared with 3,900 last June. Similarly, a quilt show at Sully attracted 2,700 visitors last month but only 900 a year ago, according to VanDevanter.
Most visitors to national parks near Washington this summer are staying longer and taking part in more programs, according to National Park Service spokesman George Berklacy.
At Prince William Forest Park near Quantico, one of the few national facilities to record a decline in attendance last month, only 49,381 visitors arrived by car, 18,000 fewer than last year.
"But they stayed almost as long as last year's 67,063 visitors," said Berklacy, "360,000 hours compared to 380,000 hours," and took part in more park programs.