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Vt. State Parks open for Memorial Day weekend

This weekend is a big one for those looking to kick off the summer season outdoors. Some state parks have been open, but others open Friday.
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 8:07 AM EDT
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WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - This weekend is a big one for those looking to kick off the summer season outdoors. Some state parks have been open since the beginning of May, but as of Friday, all 55 Vermont State Parks will be open.

“I come at least a couple of times a season,” said Francine Sparks, from Massachusetts. her early arrival for camping at Little River State Park in Waterbury gave her the experience of a lifetime -- an eye-to-eye encounter with a moose. “I was right about here, and it stopped for a split second and we looked at each other.”

Experiences like that are the reason officials say state parks are the place to be this summer. “For the most part, our parks are going to be completely open,” said Nate McKeen, the new director of Vermont State Parks. He says following the universal guidance from the governor, it’s all good news for outdoor recreation this summer. “We think we are going to be as busy as ever.”

McKeen says thanks to a surge in visitors last year, they expect to have one of their busiest years ever. “People understand being outside is one of the safest places to be, and it’s the best place possible for your mental and physical health, and then they get out and see our state parks,” he said. McKeen says hiking, mountain biking, beaches, and taking advantage of the water all lead to healthy Vermonters.

“We expect just all sorts of fun and a very busy time in Vermont’s state parks,” said Vermont Forestry Commissioner Michael Snyder. He’s reminding folks that while many campsites are full -- and more are booking up fast -- just visiting for the day is also an option. “Day-use really is a great alternative for just a quick visit, an afternoon, a morning, locals.”

Day-use makes up over 50% of the usage of Vermont State Parks, but McKeen says they want more. “We kind of like to think of our parks as everyone’s lake house, remote camp. You don’t have the property taxes, you don’t have to maintain them, you pay a small fee and you are good to go,” he said.

Snyder says a big part of this year is making sure folks from all backgrounds have access to the parks and that it’s as simple as a phone call. “We have friendly, professional staff trained in service, that’s what they prioritize. They’ve got information, guidance, hand-holding as needed, and so just give us a call and we have folks that can help you with what you might need, where the best places are to go. And it’s a really nice, accessible way to get started, and what we have seen is that when people do that, they tend to get hooked. Then, it’s a lifelong exploration of the outdoors with friends and families,” he said.

In Waterbury, the remote campsites along the reservoir can now be reserved in advance here or by calling (888) 409-7579.

And Sparks says while Little River is her favorite, they all have a unique flair. “There is a sense that you are entering a very special place,” she said.

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