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Pennsylvania Institutes First Time Camper Program

by Liz Childers

Say what they will about our government and the economic climate, but hold your mouth if you’re addressing the Pennsylvania state government.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is lending a helping hand to families through its First Time Camper Program, which allows new campers to test the waters of outdoor fun without making the big purchases that come along with camping.

For $20, a family gets a four-person tent, two sleeping bags, a tarp, two camping chairs, a flashlight, a lantern, a camping stove, and four hotdog/marshmallow cookers. The price also includes a two nights stay at one of 14 participating Pennsylvania state park and camping instructions from state park experts.

If the weekend is a family hit, renters can keep indulging in good deals. All the gear tried is available for purchase with a discount.

The program really is just for true novices; if your name is in the reservation database already, you are ineligible.

The program seems like an excellent idea. It comes in an uncertain economic time when Americans are hesitant to spend money, leaving families to find inexpensive activities to do together. Camping is already a great option, but the First Time Camper Program makes it an even more appealing weekend option and is sure to lure in some of the more hesitant families.

The program will also aide the state and national park systems by bringing in people, who would not normally spend their money on outdoor activities.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Florida’s planned privatization of many of their state parks in an attempt to gain revenue for the struggling state economy. Pennsylvania’s plan keeps state parks public, while introducing the joy of camping to new people. This definitely seems like the smarter plan for other states to follow.

What do you think? Is this an effective economic move for the DCNR and should other states follow their lead?