Georgia Expanding First-Time Camper Program
Since its creation last March, Georgia State Parks’ First-Time Camper program has introduced more than 100 families to the joys of sleeping under the stars.
To encouraging even more “newbies” to try camping, two more state parks are providing borrowed gear and expert advice for a bargain price. The new campgrounds are at General Coffee State Park in Coffee County and F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Harris and Meriwether counties, according to a news release.
Adults who grew up camping remember the fun of making s’mores by the campfire, but for those who have never camped before, spending the night outdoors can be an unfamiliar adventure. Through the Georgia’s State Parks First-Time Camper Program, curious guests can see if they enjoy sleeping in a tent before investing in their own gear.
For just $50, adventure seekers spend two nights in a modern campground, trying out gear from REI and The North Face. Park staff will greet campers upon arrival, help them set up their tent and offer a Camping 101 lesson. At the end of their two nights away from home, campers have to return the gear, but they go home with coupons for their next adventure and memories to last forever.
“We realized that some people like the idea of camping, but they’re a little intimidated and don’t want to invest in all the equipment at first,” said the program’s coordinator, Cindy Reittinger. “When they discover that it’s easier than they think to pitch a tent, or when they experience the thrill of hearing their first owl, they’ll realize how much fun camping can be.”
Author Richard Louv’s book "Last Child in the Woods" shined a light on America’s growing disconnect with nature – coining it “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Park officials hope that projects such as First-Time Camper will give families an incentive to explore and appreciate the natural world around them.
Eight of Georgia’s State Parks are in the adventure program: A.H. Stephens in Crawfordville, F.D. Roosevelt in Pine Mountain, Fort Mountain near Chatsworth, Fort Yargo in Winder, General Coffee near Douglas, James H. Floyd near Rome, Reed Bingham in Adel and Skidaway Island in Savannah. Campers get to borrow a six-man tent, sleeping pads, chairs, camp stove, lantern and marshmallow-roasting sticks.
Anyone who has never camped in a Georgia State Park may participate. While dogs are normally welcome in campgrounds, they are not allowed in the program since camping gear is shared among participants. Once settled in, park guests can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, boating, geocaching, mini-golf, animal programs and many other activities. Reservations are required and must be made by calling the individual parks. Park telephone numbers are posted on GeorgiaStateParks.org.