One ongoing and one upcoming program are designed to encourage family camping, and area residents can participate nearby at Pymatuning State Park and Presque Isle State Park.
First time campers
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is partnering with Gander Mountain to provide first-time campers with needed gear and a reservation for two nights at a participating state park for just $20.
“Although the beginning of August starts the countdown to back-to-school, there’s still time to take advantage of our first-time camper program to give the kids great summer memories of time in the outdoors,” DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said. “You can’t beat this offer as far as the cost; the opportunity to enjoy many other activities at our state parks such as hiking and fishing; and a park staffer will even help you set up camp.”
Nineteen state parks around the state are participating in the program, including: Black Moshannon, Centre County; Caledonia, Franklin County; Chapman, Warren County; Colonel Denning, Cumberland County; Cook Forest, Clarion and Jefferson counties; Gifford Pinchot, York County; Hills Creek, Tioga County; Keystone, Westmoreland County; Lackawanna, Lackawanna County; Laurel Hill, Somerset County; Little Pine, Lycoming County; Locust Lake, Schuylkill County; Ole Bull, Potter County; Parker Dam, Clearfield County; Promised Land, Pike County; Pymatuning, Crawford County; R.B. Winter, Union County; Ryerson Station, Greene County; and Sinnemahoning, Cameron and Potter counties.
Reservations should be made by calling the park office directly. The program will run through early fall.
The gear provided for use by Gander Mountain and DCNR is a four-person tent; rain tarp; four sleeping pads; four camp chairs; flashlight; lantern; camp stove; and four hot dog/marshmallow sticks. The gear must be returned upon departure.
Participants will need to bring their own food, cooking utensils and bedding. Suggested packing lists will be provided.
Last summer, in the program’s first year, there were 180 reservations made to participate, with more than half of those who took a survey saying they had never before visited a Pennsylvania state park. Almost 500 people experienced camping in a state park for the first time last year.
With 120 state parks covering about 300,000 acres, there is a state park within 25 miles of nearly every Pennsylvanian. The parks feature an array of recreational opportunities, provide a forum for multiple environmental education programs and conserve thousands of acres of unique natural areas, among many other features.
State parks also serve as economic generators to the communities that surround them, generating about a billion dollars annually in economic activity.
Beach 11 camping
Families can join Presque Isle State Park naturalists for a camp out at the Beach 11 pavilion area.
Special permission has been granted for this event as camping is not typically permitted in the park.
Family camping will begin on Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. and finish at noon Sept. 1.
Along with a campfire in the evening, there are activities, such as a pontoon ride, kayaking, storytelling and fishing the following morning. The park will provide supper and breakfast. A tent and all the gear for kayaking and fishing will also be provided; however, all campers will need to bring their own pillow and sleeping bag.
The cost is $9 per person. Please register and pay no later than Aug. 24.
n More information or to register: Call the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at (814)-833-7424.