The first fall in annual visitor numbers has been recorded since the opening of Rushmere Country Park in 2011.
In 2017-18 there were 1,600 (1%) fewer visits than 2016-17, although Central Beds Council says this is in line with predictions that the increase in parking charges would stem visitor growth.
Parking charges had been £2 per day at the park since it was opened, with funds raised from grants to develop the facilities available to visitors. But in June 2017 this rose to £3 to cover the rising costs of running the woodland site in Heath and Reach.
The visitor target for 2018-19 is to match the 2017-18 numbers.
A Central Beds Council report reveals that conservation volunteer teams led by the Greensand Trust have contributed 1,009 hours on tasks at Rushmere, including heathland restoration and fencing. Visitor centre volunteers have given 344 hours.
Priorities in the next three months are the refurbishment of the toilet block (Stockgrove), and indentifying scope for car park improvements that can be achieved within budget.