Program connects families to new outdoors experiences
Application window for online lottery runs May 10-12
As part of New York's weeklong celebration of Earth Day, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced New York will once again provide free first-time camper weekends this summer. Families that have never camped before will have the opportunity to enjoy the popular outdoor activity and be provided equipment, guidance and programs at select campgrounds.
"Camping is an affordable and rewarding experience that connects families with nature and one another while experiencing the great outdoors," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "Last year, dozens of families participated as first-time campers, and I encourage anyone that hasn't gone on a camping adventure in New York's peerless natural areas to take advantage of the first-time camper program and give camping a try."
"Season after season, our state campgrounds have been the setting for families connecting with nature and creating special memories, and we are excited to introduce this experience and these special parks to a new generation of New Yorkers,” said Acting State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “This unique program offers prospective campers a chance to learn and apply skills and fully embrace sleeping under the stars by providing know-how, equipment and fun activities, which will help instill a lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors.”
Interested New York residents can apply to participate in the first-time camper program by using an online sign-up form that enters them into an online lottery. The application period for the lottery selection process runs from May 10-12. Eligible participants who apply for the lottery during that period will be randomly selected to fill first-time camper slots.
Established in 2017 with eight parks, the program expanded last year and now, for its third season, will include 11 campgrounds over nine weekends from late June until after Labor Day. Select locations include the Catskills and Hudson Valley, Adirondacks and Western New York.
Longtime campers know the enjoyment and rewards of sleeping out in nature, but for those who have never slept in a tent before, spending the night outdoors can be an unfamiliar adventure. New York's first-time camper program provides more of a turnkey camping experience for families, especially those from underserved communities that have never camped before.
New campers will be provided with a family tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, lantern, and even firewood. A camping ambassador will meet families at the campsite and help them get camp set up with a “camping 101” lesson. Bathrooms and hot showers are a short walk from the campsites. To make the weekend getaway even more enjoyable, campers will have an opportunity to learn from experts how to fish, hike, bird watch, or paddle and more, all while having fun and making memories that last forever.
Campgrounds are available throughout the state to give all New Yorkers an opportunity to enter and participate if selected. Details about the program and how to apply can be found on DEC’s website. Information about the properties hosting the first-time camper program can be found at the links below. Participating locations and dates include:
State Parks Campgrounds: