New York State has expanded its free "First-Time Camper Program" for 2018 which will allow more families to take part. Participants get a free weekend of camping in a NYS campground. It also comes with all the camping gear that a family needs to spend a weekend in the woods including a family tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, a lantern and firewood - all gear that families get to keep free of charge.
A Camping Ambassador will teach the newcomers the basics of camping which include how to set tents, make fires, hike, fish and bird watch.
Only New York State residents are eligible.
The pilot program was started in 2017 as a way to help families, who have never camped, have a chance to experience camping without all the startup costs. It was so popular that NYS expanded it to include more summer weekends and more families.
However, it is limited.
A total of 35 families will be selected for State Parks and 30 families for DEC campgrounds.
In order to be selected, you have to first register for an online random lottery by Sunday May 13th. Winners will be notified by the end of May.
The free camping weekends for the winning first-timers will take place between July 13 through August 17, 2018. Darien Lakes State Park and Four Mile Creek State Park are both taking part in the program.
You can register for a chance to be selected by going to the following website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/109909.html
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.