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Did You Know You Can Rent a State Park Pass From the Library?

Library cards are good for more than just books nowadays.

Our local state parks are a great way to get out into pristine nature without having to travel or battle the crowds of the more popular national parks. But for some, the entry fee is enough to deter these plans from ever being formed when there are so many free outdoor activities to be had.

But did you know that many states offer free admission to state parks through collaborative programs with your local public library?

READ MORE: 25 State Parks Worth Visiting for Less Crowds This Summer

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How Library Park Passes Work

In short, most of the programs work like this: You can head to your local library and check out a state park pass the same way you would check out a book. In most cases, you'll need a library card.

Sometimes, the passes need to be returned, and sometimes they don't.

The best part: Most states have some sort of program like this.

Details differ for each state and locality, but the general concept is essentially the same.

In Minnesota, the program is called the Minnesota State Parks Library Program, and it allows users to check out free seven-day state park passes at participating libraries across the state. Minnesota tells users to recycle their used pass; no need to return it to the library.

Minnesota is also one of many states that has designed the program around income eligibility requirements. The passes are allotted to libraries "in a city or county where the median annual household income is $58,000 and/or schools nearby the library have more than 40% of students enrolled in the federal free and reduced lunch program."

In Minnesota, the program is slated to run through June 2025 with the intention to provide a way for people living in low-income communities to visit state parks without the financial barrier of an entry fee.

Many states have similar programs, including (but not limited to) California, Nevada, GeorgiaKansas, Colorado, and Vermont.

In Georgia, the state's Library Loan Program has allowed more than 120,000 parkgoers access and saved them more than $1 million in parking and admission fees. That is a whole lot of experiences that may otherwise never have happened.

Some states, such as Colorado, even toss in some extra perks, such as a backpack loaded up for adventure. The state park pass backpack includes binoculars, a wildlife viewing guide, a Colorado bird guide, a tree and wildflower identification guide, a star guide, a park brochure, suggested activities list, and the Leave No Trace outdoor ethics principles.

Many libraries in New York provide cardholders Empire Passes, which waive the entrance fee and give access to state parks.

How to Use the Program

To find out if your local library runs the program, your best bet is to ask your local librarian. Information can also be found on your state park's website (though these sites are notoriously hard to navigate).

Keep in mind these state park library pass programs give access to state parks but not national, local, or private parks.

As always, recreate responsibly. Research the park before visiting, wear appropriate clothing, and bring plenty of food and water. If there will be any hiking, take your preparations a step further and bring a daypack.

READ MORE: 3 Great State Parks for Stargazing Across the Country