With six state parks—Douthat, Fairy Stone, Hungry Mother, Seashore (now called First Landing) Staunton River, and Westmoreland—officially opening on June 15, 1936, Virginia became America’s first state to dedicate an entire state park system in one day. The “boys” of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who had been doing so for a number of months, continued the development of the parks by building trails, roadways, six cabins, maintenance work areas, and administrative offices. Many of these are still in use today.

So, that makes 2011 the 75th anniversary of Virginia’s state parks and to celebrate the commonwealth has created the  June 15-September 15 “75 Days of Summer” calendar of events. Possibly one of the best of the events, and the one they hope will really increase visitation, is coming up in less than two weeks. Parking and admission fees will be waived from June 13-19. Not only can you get in for free, but on June 18th there will be extra special anniversary events and birthday cake in all 35 parks.

In addition, there is the “75 Days of Summer” contest. Visit any state park and you can enter to win the grand prize of a pretty snazzy 2011 Palomino-Pony Popup Camper. (Not for ultra-lite backpacking—it weighs over 2,000 pounds.)  Beginning June 15, you can enter online for daily prizes ranging from camping trips to free use of a rental camper trailer.

Once the “75 Days of Summer” are over, submit digital photographs from your visits to the parks to be entered into a contest which will award various state park cabin and camping packages.

More information about the contests and other 75th anniversary events may be found at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks.