Georgia’s First-Time Camper Program Introduces Families to Sleeping Under the Stars

Status: Archived  
ATLANTA, March 22, 2016 -- Avid campers know the gooey fun of toasting marshmallows over a fire, but for those who have never slept in a tent, spending the night outdoors can be an intimidating adventure. Through Georgia State Parks’ First-Time Camper Program, curious guests can see if they enjoy sleeping under the stars before investing in their own gear. Since the program began in 2013, more than 445 families have discovered the joys of campground life.

For around $25 per night, guests stay in a modern campground while trying out donated gear.  Park staff or volunteers greet campers upon arrival, give tips on setting up, and offer a Camping 101 lesson if needed.  At the end of their getaway, campers exchange the gear for memories and photographs. 
“Park rangers often hear people say they are interested in camping, but they don’t have the equipment,” said the program’s coordinator Ellen Graham.  “Once they see how easy it is to pitch today’s modern tents, and maybe even experience the thrill of hearing an owl, they’ll realize how much fun camping can be.”
A dozen Georgia State Parks are in the program, including A.H. Stephens in Crawfordville, F.D. Roosevelt in Pine Mountain, Fort Mountain near Chatsworth, Fort Yargo in Winder, General Coffee near Douglas, Gordonia-Alatamaha in Reidsville, James H. Floyd near Summerville, Laura S. Walker in Waycross, Reed Bingham in Adel, Red Top Mountain on Lake Allatoona, Richard B. Russell on Lake Russell, and Stephen C. Foster in the Okefenokee Swamp.  Both Fort Mountain and Red Top Mountain have enough equipment for groups up to 20 people.
“Author Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods was a wake-up call to America’s disconnect with nature,” said Graham. “He calls it ‘Nature Deficit Disorder.’ We hope projects like this give families an incentive to explore and appreciate the natural world around them.”
Feedback about the program has been overwhelmingly positive, with many campers saying they appreciated the helpful rangers and welcoming atmosphere. Anyone who has never camped in a Georgia State Park may participate in the First-Time Camper program.  Once settled in, families can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, boating, geocaching, mini-golf, wildlife programs and many other activities.  Reservations are required and must be made by calling the individual park offices. To learn more, visit