Public libraries to offer free state park passes

ATLANTA - For a great day outdoors, head to a branch of the Gwinnett County or Piedmont public library this summer and fall. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has teamed up with Georgia's public libraries to offer some inexpensive entertainment.

Beginning Monday, everyone who holds a library card at any of Georgia's public libraries can get free passes to all of the state's 63 parks and historic areas. Most of Georgia's state parks charge a $3 parking fee every day except Wednesdays, said Jenny Schmitt, DNR spokeswoman. Some historic sites charge as much as $4.75, she said.

The promotion is part of the Get Outdoors Georgia campaign, sponsored by the DNR. Any Georgian holding a valid library card from any public library system, including the Gwinnett County Public Library System or PINES, can check out a ParkPass folder for up to seven days. Folders include an annual ParkPass, an annual Historic Site pass and the "Guide to Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites" featuring descriptions, photos, directions and a map of all 63 state parks and historic sites.

Each one of Gwinnett County's 14 library branches has two folders, said Denise Auger, community partnership coordinator.

"They are like books," she said. "You can check it out for seven days. If it's not available, you can sign up for it and we will call you when it is ready."

The passes would encourage Teresa Bega to take her three children to visit Georgia's state parks.

"I moved here from California five years ago and I haven't seen any of them," she said.

Georgia maintains 45 state parks, three historic parks and 15 historic sites from the Appalachian Mountains to the coastal lowlands offering a variety of scenery and recreation, such as mountains, canyons, forests, waterfalls, lakes, swamps, rivers and battlefields. Some popular getaways include Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site in Cartersville, Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Providence Canyon in Lumpkin, Roosevelt's Little White House Historic Site in Warm Springs, Skidaway Island State Park and Tallulah Gorge State Park.

For more information, visit www.GetOutdoorsGeorgia.org, which will launch Monday.

The Gwinnett County library system offers a similar program called Key to the Arts that allows patrons to visit the Hudgens Art Museum and the Southeastern Railway Museum free of charge. For more information, visit www.gwinnettpl.org.