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Posted: September 23, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Celebrate the outdoors on National Public Lands Day

File photo/The Covington News

Plenty to do: Hard Labor Creek State Park, located just North of Rutledge, has miles of walking trails, two lakes, campgrounds and rental cabins to enjoy.

Put away your wallet and pull out your fishing pole or hiking boots. Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites is offering free admission on Saturday, Sept. 26, as part of National Public Lands Day.

The statewide celebration is a way to thank park visitors and volunteers for their support of outdoor recreation and historic preservation.

"Our state parks and historic sites have been through a challenging year," said Parks Director Becky Kelley. "Free Day in the Parks is our way of thanking the thousands of people who volunteer their time, spend their vacations in the parks, or even just visit for the day. Of course, while we are waiving the parking fee, voluntary contributions will help support our mission to protect, preserve and provide access to Georgia's public green spaces."

Sponsored in part by the Coca-Cola Company and Verizon Wireless, the celebration includes dozens of family-friendly events and service projects.

Learn to canoe and shoot skeet at Unicoi State Park's Outdoor Adventure Day. Listen for owls on a night hike at Hamburg State Park. Try fishing in the Okefenokee Swamp at Stephen C. Foster State Park. Or watch molten iron become works of art at Red Top Mountain State Park's harvest celebration.

A full calendar of events is posted at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/events.

On Free Day in the Parks, the regular five dollar parking fee will be waived, historic sites will open their doors for free, and even anglers will not need a fishing license. Sept. 26 is also National Hunting and Fishing Day, celebrated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources at many events and locations.

"For less than a tank of gas, families can enjoy a full day of ranger programs, hiking, biking, picnicking, birding and more," said Kelley. "All visitors will pay for are rental facilities, some events or programs, activities such as canoe rental and mini golf, and accommodations like cottages, lodge rooms or campsites."

Modern campsites, fully equipped cottages and hotel-style lodge rooms provide overnight accommodations for outdoor enthusiasts who want to stay for the weekend. The lodges recently introduced lower promotional rates, and campsites are around $23 per night.

Numerous volunteer projects are being coordinated by the non-profit Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites with 47 chapters across the state.

Corporations are also involved, with REI kicking off the celebration at Panola Mountain State Park near Stockbridge and Home Depot employees volunteering at Reed Bingham State Park in Adel.

Organized groups or corporations that would like to participate can call the parks' volunteer coordinator at (404) 656-6533 or the Friends group at (888) 948-2092.

To learn more about Free Day in the Parks, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org. Reservations for accommodations and picnic shelters can be made by calling (800) 864-7275.


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