Now there is no excuse not to take the family camping, thanks to an ingenious program from Georgia’s State Parks Department. First-time campers can try out borrowed gear from one of the leaders in sporting goods, REI.
“We realized that some people like the idea of camping, but they’re a little intimidated and don’t know if they can do it,” 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.”
The First-Time Camper Program is a bargain weekend getaway. For just $45, park guests spend two nights in a modern campground, trying out gear from REI — including a six-man tent, sleeping pads, chairs, camp stove and more. Park staff will greet campers upon arrival, help them set up their tent and make a campfire, and even give a Camping 101 lesson. At the end of their two nights away from home, campers return the gear to the park office, but they go home with coupons for their next adventure and memories to last forever.
Six Georgia State Parks offer the pilot program:
- A.H. Stephens State Park in Crawfordville
- Fort Yargo State Park in Winder;
- James H. Floyd State Park near Rome
- Reed Bingham State Park in Adel
- Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah and
- Victoria Bryant State Park near Lavonia.
Groups of up to 20 people can also try the First-Time Camper program at two northern Georgia state parks, Fort Mountain and Victoria Bryant. Multiple families or groups of friends can camp for one night, with all the benefits of the regular program, plus even more help from park rangers. Rates vary by the size of the group. Dates for the group campouts are April 21 and August 18 at Fort Mountain State Park, and June 9 at Victoria Bryant State Park.
Anyone who has never camped in a Georgia State Park may participate. Once settled in, park guests can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, boating, geocaching, mini-golf, animal programs and many other activities.
Reservations are required.
Telephone for Program Coordinator Cindy Reittinger: 404-657-0029.