SALEM, Ore. - On June 1, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will celebrate the 15th annual State Parks Day by offering free tent, RV, and horse camp sites and free day-use parking at state parks throughout Oregon.
State Parks Day is held on the first Saturday in June each year. It was established in 1998 by a joint resolution of the Oregon State Legislative Assembly.
"It's a great way to thank Oregonians and visitors for their support of our state parks," said OPRD Director Tim Wood. "A day of free parking and a night of free camping---it gives everyone a chance to enjoy the experience of being outdoors during the summer."
State Parks Day will kick off Oregon Outdoors Week (June 1-9), a new initiative that links other statewide and national events promoting outdoor recreation, including the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Free Fishing Weekend, National Fishing and Boating Week, National Marina Day, National Trails Day, and National Get Outdoors Day.
The theme of State Parks Day this year is "Let's Go," in honor of the Let's Go program, which was started by The Friends of Tryon Creek 15 years ago to offer low-cost introductory family camping in the Portland area. OPRD adopted the program and took it statewide in 2009. This year, it has expanded the program to include four new activities in addition to camping: Let's Go Birding, Let's Go Disc Golfing, Let's Go Hiking, and Let's Go Paddling.
Three Let's Go events will be offered on State Parks Day. Rangers will lead the activities and provide the necessary gear so that families can try new outdoor activities with confidence. The events are open to ages 8 and up; youth under 14 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Some activities require preregistration--you must be 18 to sign up. The events are:
* Let's Go Disc Golfing at L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park, noon to 2 p.m. Meet at Dairy Creek Camp West and wear sturdy shoes. Registration fee $10 per person. Limited to 12 participants.
* Let's Go Paddling (kayaking) at Milo McIver State Park, 9 to 11 a.m. Meet at Estacada Lake and wear shoes that can get wet. Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and water. Registration fee $15 per person. Limited to 11 participants. Youth ages 8-14 need to have an adult with them in the kayak.
* Let's Go Birding at Tryon Creek State Natural Area, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Meet at the Nature Center and wear shoes for hiking. Binoculars will be available. Free. First-come, first-served---no registration required.
Many other parks will also host special events on State Parks Day; check www.oregonstateparks.org for the full schedule of events and a list of future dates and locations for Let's Go camping and day programs throughout the summer. To register for a Let's Go program, call 1-888-953-7677.
Those planning to camp at a reservable site on State Parks Day should make their reservation early: sites can be booked two days or more in advance by visiting www.oregonstateparks.org or calling Reservations Northwest at 1-800-452-5687 before 5 p.m. on May 30th. Yurts, cabins, tepees, and group sites will be available at regular rates. It costs $8 to make a reservation, even for sites that are free for the night.