Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

For Release: Tuesday, April 17, 2018

DEC and State Parks Announce Expanded 2018 First-Time Camper Program for 2018

Applications for New Three-Day Random Selection Lottery System Opens May 10

As part of New York's weeklong celebration of Earth Day, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced that New York will again provide free First-Time Camper weekends this summer. Due to the success and high demand of the State's pilot first-time camper program in 2017, this year's program is being expanded to seven weekends and includes a new, online lottery system selection process. The application signup period for the new lottery system runs from May 10 to May 13. Participants will be randomly selected to fill first-time camper slots.

"Camping is an affordable and rewarding experience that connects families with nature and one another while experiencing the great outdoors," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Last year, more than 150 people participated as first-time campers and I encourage anyone that hasn't gone on a camping adventure in New York's peerless natural areas to take advantage of the First-Time Camper program and give camping a try."

"New York State campgrounds offer an affordable and exciting option for families to explore and strengthen their bonds with the outdoors, said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "Building upon the success of last year, this year's First-Time Campers will continue to provide long lasting memories while participants enjoy ample opportunities to run, walk, hike, swim, canoe or bike ride near and around our campgrounds.

Families that have never camped before will have the opportunity to see if they enjoy sleeping under the stars before investing in their own gear by registering for a fully stocked campsite at select state campgrounds one weekend from July 13 through August 17.

Last year's pilot program included four camping weekends for five families each, with 20 total slots for State Parks and 20 slots for DEC campgrounds. Due to the success of the 2017 program, the 2018 program was expanded to include seven weekends for a total of 35 families for State Parks and 30 families for DEC.

Long-time campers know the enjoyment and rewards of sleeping out in nature, but for those who have never slept in a tent before, spending the night outdoors can be an unfamiliar adventure. New York's First-Time Camper program makes trying camping easy by providing a turnkey camping experience for families, especially those from underserved communities that have never camped before.

New campers will be provided with a family tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, lantern, and even firewood. A Camping Ambassador will meet families at the campsite and help them get camp set up with a camping 101 lesson. Bathrooms and hot showers are a short walk from the campsites. To make the weekend getaway even more enjoyable, campers will have an opportunity to learn from experts how to fish, hike, bird watch, paddle and more, all while having fun and making memories that last forever.

Campgrounds are available throughout the state to give all New Yorkers an opportunity to participate.

DEC Campground locations are listed and linked below:

  1. 7/13-7/15 - North South Lake (Catskills)
  2. 7/20-7/22 - Kenneth L Wilson (Catskills)
  3. 7/27-7/29 - Eighth Lake Campground (Adirondacks)
  4. 8/3 - 8/5 - Cranberry Lake Campground (Adirondacks)
  5. 8/10-8/12 - Hearthstone Point Campground (Adirondacks)
  6. 8/17 - 8/19 - Fish Creek Pond Campground (Adirondacks)

State Parks

  1. 7/13 - 7/15 - Darien Lakes State Park (Genesee Region)
  2. 7/20 - 7/22 - Four Mile Creek State Park (Niagara Region)
  3. 7/27 - 7/29 - Wellesley Island State Park (Thousand Islands Region)
  4. 8/3 - 8/5 - Taconic State Park - Copake Falls (Taconic Region)
  5. 8/10 - 8/12 - Fair Haven Beach State Park (Finger Lakes Region)
  6. 8/17 - 8/19 - Chenango Valley State Park (Central Region)
  7. 8/24 - 8/26 - Thompson's Lake at Thacher State Park (Saratoga Region)

In a follow-up survey, every camper that participated in the 2017 program reported being "very satisfied with the experience," and 90 percent of respondents reporting that they are "extremely likely to go camping again." The remaining 10 percent said they were "very likely" to camp again.

  • "I can't begin to explain the incredible experience my family had. The First Time Campers program had such a great influence on us. Our camp ambassadors, were awesome. So friendly, so smart and so patient with sharing all of their knowledge. We learned so much. They were great with our daughter and we learned that camping isn't as intimidating as we had thought. We are so excited to be able to start going as a family and explore the parks and experience all that we can." - 2017 First-Time Camper, Brooklyn, NY
  • This was the most fun we've had in NY since we moved here 4 1/2 years ago. We cannot wait to go camping again!! So generous to let us keep all the gear!" - 2017 First-Time Camper, Queens, NY
  • We had the BEST time!! Thank you for starting this program because we would have never gone camping had it not been for you guys. Thank you for the equipment, thank you to our guides, and thank you for the memories. We can't wait to go again:)" - 2017 First-Time Camper, Albany, NY

Author Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods shined a light on America's growing disconnect with nature, coining it "Nature Deficit Disorder." Initiatives such as the First-Time Camper program give families a unique opportunity to explore and appreciate the natural world around them.

For more information on the First-Time Camper Program, including how-to videos for campers, visit DEC's website.

  • Contact for this Page
  • Press Office - Lori Severino
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-1016
    518-402-8000
    email us
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions