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New York State Offers Free Camping For First Timers

campingNew York State offered outdoor newcomers the chance to get rugged this summer. New York Upstate reports that the Empire state has launched a first-time camper program, providing a free trip and gear to a few happy campers. The 40 camping slots spanned eight weekends, and were snatched up in under 30 minutes.

According to New York Upstate, the purpose of the program is to foster the love of camping in those who have never experienced the outdoors in this way. The lucky weekenders who signed up for these trips will receive a six-person tent, sleeping bags and pads, towels, and camp chairs. The funding for the gear was provided by a ReserveAmerica camping promotion fund.

Lisha McKoy, of Brooklyn, camped with her three-year-old daughter and three other adults, according to New York Upstate. She said in a statement that it was a wonderful experience.

“They provided every single thing we would need, including firewood,” she told New York Upstate. “A guide helped us set up camp, and they had activities like hiking, fishing, fire-building. It was incredible.”

McKoy joins the 40.1 million people, or 14% of the population over the age of six, that enjoy camping, according to a 2014 survey by The Outdoor Foundation. And since 63% of adult campers stayed within 150 miles of home, this program could be an attractive option for New Yorkers if continued in the future.

But not all state policy makers are in support, particularly because of the cost. New York Upstate reports that each camping kit costs $300. In a statement, Michael Long, chairman of the state’s Conservation Party, said that the cost may be wasteful.

“It may make someone feel good, but it’s overly generous and clearly unfair to the taxpayers of the state,” he said.

According to New York Upstate, other states do have similar programs at a lower cost. For example, Georgia rents camping gear to those interested for $50 per night. Minnesota rents for $60 for one night and $85 for two. But proponents of New York’s program say that it is about more than just the money. Laura DiBetta, who is in charge of outdoor recreation at the Department of Environmental Conservation, says it could have positive side effects for years to come.

“We see it as a way of demystifying camping and promoting our campgrounds as a low-cost vacation opportunity.”

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