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Statecation: Parks Passport 

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, lots of folks are starting to make summer plans. There’s no doubt many people will visit one or more of Maine’s state parks.This summer, there’s more incentive than ever to add a few more state parks to your list. As part of our “Statecation” series, we took a visit to Lily Bay State Park in Greenville this week. While we were there, we heard more about a new program the state is rolling out that will keep visitors headed to all our state parks, all summer long.”Most people who come here, once they come here once, they come back again. Well over 50 percent are regulars.”Lily Bay State Park Manager Andy Haskell says, for lots of people, these are their regular stomping grounds. But with a new program starting Memorial Day weekend, they hope to see a lot of first-timers as well.”What we really want is people to come to the parks. These parks belong to the people in the state of Maine. And they’re there for everybody to use and we really want people to come out and enjoy them,” Haskell says.This year is the 75th anniversary of the Maine State Park system. As part of the celebration, the Bureau of Parks and Lands is introducing the “Parks Passport.”For each one of Maine’s state parks and historic sites you visit – and there are 48 to choose from – you get a stamp in a special passport. When you start accumulating stamps, you start getting prizes, from stickers and water bottles to free park passes.”You’re able to get a couple nights of camping or a free season pass for Maine State Parks, that’s for getting all 48.”Haskell says, even better, the program gives everyone a chance, and challenge, to really see the diversity of our state.”And see why we have all these state parks. They’re gorgeous. Every one is beautiful in its own way,” he says. “From the ocean to the mountains to lakes, learning about nature and appreciating what you have is important.”He says one of jewels at Lily Bay is Moosehead Lake itself, for swimming, fishing or boating. You can head out to a remote island campsite, or settle into one right on shore. “We have 90 campsites, 38 of which are right on Moosehead themselves,” he says.But Haskell says the best part of any state park experience is that in and around the parks, you never know what you could see – or what might just jump out at you. He says if you’d like help getting started, just give the parks a call.”Helping people out and helping people enjoy their experience, it just makes my day,” Haskell says.The park officials we spoke to say they can’t wait to tip their hats to the first person to fill their passport full of memories, and make it to 48.”That would be an amazing journey, that would be a good job to have for the summer,” Haskell says, “to go around to every state park and learn something and see what it has to offer.”Again, the passport program will start over Memorial Day weekend, and the folks we spoke to say it could keep going after this year if people enjoy it. You’ll be able to pick up the free passports right at the parks themselves. You can find a list of parks and more information about them on the state’s web site: Parksandlands.com.